HOUSTON – Sorry Houston, maybe next decade.
The largest city in Texas is staying put as the fourth-largest in the nation, falling just short of passing Chicago for No. 3, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
David Thompson, who helped organize a private city promotion program called “Houston. It’s Worth It,” acknowledged national perceptions might have started to change had Houston finally cracked the top three, joining New York and Los Angeles.
“It does take something that large to get people to reposition us in their heads,” Thompson said. “You are used to seeing New York, L.A., Chicago. To say New York, L.A., Houston – that would have been a big one.”
It almost happened. During the past decade, Houston grew by 7.4 percent to 2.09 million. While Chicago’s population dropped by nearly 7 percent, it remained ahead of Houston at 2.7 million people.
Steve Murdock, a former Texas state demographer and previous director of the U.S Census Bureau, said while he wasn’t shocked Chicago didn’t slip, residents shouldn’t feel too comfy at No. 3.
“If Chicago doesn’t change direction, it’s obvious Houston could overtake Chicago and become bigger sometime in the next decade,” Murdock said.
Rice University sociology professor Stephen Klineberg credits Houston’s continued growth to various factors, including: a lower unemployment rate than the rest of the country (8.1 percent compared to the national rate of 9 percent); a lower cost of living; and a continued influx of immigrants.