Is Houston REALLY About To Be Bigger Than Chicago??

It’s a news story that’s quickly becoming all the rage for the Bayou City.  But can it really be true?  Is Houston actually about to be the 3rd largest City in the United States… ahead of even Chicago?? Before my answer, here’s the story from Reuters

Houston has been one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities for years, fueled by an energy industry that provided the backbone of the economy, low taxes and prospects of employment that have attracted job seekers.

But Houston also embodies the new, urban Texas, where political views have been drifting to the left, diversity is being embraced and newer residents are just as likely to drive a hybrid as a pickup truck.

Houston’s move is also indicative of demographic shifts unfolding in the United States that will increase the population and political clout of the Lone Star State over the next several decades.

Within eight to 10 years, Houston is forecast by demographers in the two states to pass Chicago, which has seen its population decline for years, as the third-largest city.

Houston is projected to have population of 2.54 million to 2.7 million by 2025 while Chicago will be at 2.5 million, according to official data from both states provided for their health departments. New York and Los Angeles are safe at one and two respectively.

If you’re a regular reader Texas Leftist, you’ll probably know two things:  1) This blog is based in Houston, and 2) you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger supporter of the things Houston does well.  At the same time, it’s important to look at truth in these situations.

While it’s possible that Houston’s city population may edge past that of Chicago in the coming decade, using that measure alone is an inaccurate determination of a city’s true size, particularly when comparing cities so different.

From a land area perspective, Houston is already much bigger.  At 230 square miles, Chicago occupies just one third the land area of the Bayou City.  Or another way to think about it… Houstonians are way more spread out than citizens in Chicago.  As Rice University’s Kinder Institute points out, Houston’s land area is sprawling so much that it could contain the entire cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit into the space and still have room left over.




It’s also important to understand that a city is much more than the population that simply resides within its borders.  Houston draws from it’s entire metropolitan area, which currently stands just short of 6.3 million people over 10 counties in Southeast Texas.  This is where the Bayou City would have some catching up to do.  Chicago’s Metropolitan Area stands at 9.1 million people.  So on that metric, it’s going to take a while for Houston to catch up.

But far beyond any numerical ranking, Houston is already experiencing a world of change.  It may not be as dense as Chicago today, but the city is experiencing some of the fastest growth in its history.  Rapid densification is occurring all over Houston.  Even without the competition, this process will be exciting for everyone to witness.

So can Houston surpass Chicago in the next 10 years?  We’ll see. But perhaps a more important question to ask… how are we going to fit all these people on the freeways??





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8 thoughts on “Is Houston REALLY About To Be Bigger Than Chicago??”

  1. You won’t fit them all on freeways. You’ll have to rely on adding more transits (bus, light rail, commuter rail) and hope more people choose to live near work.

  2. You won’t fit them all on freeways. You’ll have to rely on adding more transit (bus, light rail, commuter rail) and hope more people choose to live near work.

  3. Just vote Democratic like the city of Chicago, and you too will loose population and jobs… never mind the increase in crime!… Don’t you get it yet?… if not, come to Connecticut and see for yourself!

  4. We don’t have a Republican/Democrat voter issue in Houston, or anywhere else. We have a problem with our human condition. The way we consciously process information must change. The brain is very easy to lie to. Most humans cannot correctly identify lies from truth, legit info from fake info. We have very lazy thinking. That is across the political spectrum.

  5. I am late to this story, but Houston’s growth has slowed down. Chicago population decline has also slowed down a bit. Right now, Chicago has a population advantage by about 400k. Houston would be lucky to close that gap within 8 years.

  6. Well yeah this was written 4 years ago. So if Chicago’s population has bounced back from a mid-decade slump, that would certainly change predictions.

    Ultimately it will be the Census process which resolves this question.

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