Hill County Summit focuses on population trends, projections

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

April 6, 2022

State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter was the featured speaker when the first annual Go Hillsboro Hill County Summit was held at Hill College Thursday, March 31.

Over 70 people attended to hear Dr. Potter discuss demographic characteristics and trends in Hill County, the state and the region.

The Texas Demographic Center produces population estimates and projections along with demographic information that can assist local leaders and policy makers as they consider current and future needs for state services and infrastructure.

Dr. Potter began the discussion by highlighting the state’s growth based on the 2020 census count, which revealed a population of over 29 million. The state added almost four million people over the decade, which is more than any other state in the nation.

Population estimates for 2021 show Texas having the largest numeric gain in the country, increasing by over 300,000 residents in one year.

While the state is growing as a whole, many rural counties have lost population over the last decade, according to Dr. Potter. Looking at the state’s population distribution, most of the increase has been along the Interstate 35 corridor.

In the Heart of Texas region, McLennan County experienced the largest population increase over the past decade, adding over 25,000 residents between the 2010 and 2020 census.

According to the data presented, Hill County is only estimated to have gained 785 residents in that time, but local officials pointed out and Dr. Potter agreed that the number is incorrect.

As he has in the past, Hill County Judge Justin Lewis pointed out that building permits—one of the metrics used by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Texas Demographic Center to determine population estimates—are not useful in a rural county.

“As a county under 150,000 in population we don’t have the legal authority to issue a single building permit,” Lewis said. Dr. Potter said that the judge made a good point and acknowledged that population growth in unincorporated areas of the county would not be captured by reviewing building permits.

There are signs of continued growth along the I-35 corridor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, Hill County is estimated to have added 597 residents. “That’s a pretty significant shift in a short period of time and certainly is, I think, indicative of what’s likely to be happening in Hill County,” Dr. Potter said.

A deeper dive into those numbers shows Hill County with 505 births, 668 deaths and 766 new residents. Those new residents included 757 who moved from other areas in Texas or the United States, and nine from other countries.

One trend that Dr. Potter said Hill County is experiencing is more deaths than births, which is indicative of an aging population. “There are relatively few people in their childbearing years, and those people who are in their childbearing years are not having an average of 2.1 children,” Dr. Potter said.

This natural decrease in population, which all counties in the region are experiencing except McLennan, is being offset by new residents moving to the area.

Statewide and locally, domestic migration is now driving the population increase. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that from 2010 to 2020, about 31 percent of the state’s population change was due to domestic migration within the United States. Between 2020 and 2021, that jumped to almost 55 percent.

The vast majority of new Texas residents are coming from California, which drove domestic migration in the state over the past decade. Numbers collected from 2010-2019 show 302,978 people moved from California to Texas. Also in the top three were Illinois, with 96,790 residents moving to Texas, and New York, with 91,109.

Texas is also getting more diverse, according to available racial and ethnic population data. Between 2010 and 2020, Texas added almost four million people, and almost 50 percent of those new residents are Hispanic. Dr. Potter said that Texas also has a growing Asian population, accounting for about 15 percent of the decade’s growth.

Dr. Potter presented future projections, but pointed out that these are based on historical data and can shift when new information is received.

The center is projecting that Texas will have a population of over 47 million by 2050, assuming the state’s growth continues as it has the past decade. “If this happens, Texas is likely to grow pretty dramatically,” he said.

“The Latino population is probably exceeding the non-Hispanic white population right about now in terms of population size,” he said. “The African American population also continues to grow. But the Asian population, if it continues to grow at the pace it has, even though it’s a small proportion of our total population, is almost going to be at the same size as the African American population.”

Locally, Dr. Potter showed data from The Texas Demographic Center projecting that Hill County’s population will drop closer to 30,000 by 2050, but once again, he agreed with local officials that this is likely not the case and will change based on new data.

“Data released last week indicates that a lot of counties that have had declines in population and migration have seen switches, and almost all of them are rural,” Dr. Potter said. He pointed out that many of these counties are not on the I-35 corridor, which has a growing population, and these are indicators that Hill County’s projections could change.

Dr. Potter also said that officials can challenge the census numbers until June 30, 2023, but they have to provide data showing why the count is wrong.

Judge Lewis said that local officials believe there was an undercount and asked Dr. Potter what information can be collected locally to help ensure a better count in the future. Lewis said that he had been in contact with the Demographic Center beginning in 2016 about population estimates and provided information about 9-1-1 addressing.

“We had a population gain estimate at one point in 2019 of almost 1,900 people,” Lewis said. “Then the census came out and only showed 785. We issued more septic tank permits than that, approximately 800, in that 10-year period.”

Lewis said that he has also heard from Hill County residents who were not counted because the Census Bureau does not mail forms to post office boxes, which are utilized by many rural residents.
Dr. Potter provided some suggestions, including participation in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program, which allows local governments to submit addresses to the Census Bureau.

More information about the work of The Texas Demographic Center is available online at http://www.demographics.texas.gov.

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