In just three decades, Texas will look a lot different than it does right now.

But it’s not just the land and the urban sprawl that will change the face of Texas — it’s the people who make up the Lone Star State.

With changes in fertility, death and migration rates, and shifts in racial identity and composition, the Texas of today likely won’t be the Texas of tomorrow, according to Texas demographers. 

Fertility and death rates

One of the biggest changes already happening is fertility and death rates are decreasing, said Dr. Helen You, Texas Demographic Center senior demographer.

“For birth rates, the total fertility for all race groups will kind of converge gradually in the future, so that’s how we project the rates,” You said during a state demographics conference in Austin on Thursday. “We studied past trends, we go back to the literature, try to think, ‘Is the fertility going up or going down?’”

This is something demographers have to take into account when creating population projections, You said.

“We do the projections at the state and county level by age — single year of age, sex, and race and ethnicity,” You said. “In the 2018 projection, we projected that both fertility rates and death rates will keep decreasing in the future.”

This has also changed how demographers distribute information, You said. 

For example, Texas demographers have had to move the age range up from 85 and older to 95 and older.

“We realized that with the improvement of life expectancy, you see more and more people at older age, so there was a necessity there to expand the top age,” You said. 

Migration

The migration in or out of an area is harder to predict, You said. Still, it’s not a secret overall Texas’ population is growing and people are moving in.

“Migration, it’s more of a wildcard,” You said. “We feel like we don’t know how to make the judgment. I know a lot of researchers start studying migration, there are lots and lots and lots of migration models out there, but it’s hard because it’s related to a number of things.”

The best way to try to predict migration patterns and their outcomes is to study past periods that have similar patterns, You said.

“Use the pattern at that time, and then be very clear about, ‘Oh, okay, this is if things will go on as what happens in that period, a future projection will be like that,’” she said. “That’s usually why we call it projection, rather than forecasting because we’re really projecting a past period to the future.”

Because of the growth in population in Texas and then the “snowball effect,” migration rates will pickup, especially toward the end of the 2050 projection period, You said.

“It will increase and it will increase faster toward later years,” You said, explaining the snowball effect works like a snowball picking up more snow as it rolls down a hill.

Racial identity shift

One trend that’s become apparent in recent years is a racial identity shift, with more people born to white mothers claiming different race or ethnicity groups than their mom.

“We used to project births — fertility rates — on mother’s race,” You said. “(Rates) do differ by race and ethnicity, but in recent years in literature and in comparison and analysis, we notice more and more newborns in the surveys, they don’t report the same race as their mother.”

The reasons are likely due to an increase in interracial marriages and that there’s been a shift toward accepting minority identities, You said.

“People having more awareness about identifying themselves as minority groups, as non-white, as two or more races. And so now, the phenomena is big enough we can see it in our work, in our projection.”

This is especially true among the Asian population, You added.

“My speculation, they are probably more confident, so Asian is a category now, ‘I can claim myself as Asian rather than white,’” You said.

Racial and age 

composition shift

By 2050, the racial and age composition of Texas likely will be very different than today, You said.

“Hispanics will still be the fastest growing group which is the dark blue line and then of course Asian is increasing pretty fast, too,” You said. “That’s where we will see a difference in race composition, in 2050.”

The non-Hispanic white population will drop from 45% of the population to 28%, You said. 

“All the non-white groups will increase in their share,” You said. “With Asians having the biggest (percentage) gain in that, from 4% to 12%.”

The largest numerical gain will be in the Hispanic population, You said.

Age composition will also shift — again, because of the decrease in birth and death rates. As young people opt to have less children and to have children later, future generations will likely be smaller, You said.

“All the younger age they will decrease in their share in the younger population,” You said. 

Let’s get specific

Many of these trends will be seen and are already visible at the national level, You said. In sharing Texas specific trends, You pointed to predicted areas of growth.

One continuing trend will be the growth in the Texas’ “triangle” — in the cities of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin — which form a triangle when lines are drawn between them.

“That’s another complaint we get, do you really think that will keep growing like that? I don’t know — so that’s why we are very specific about our assumption,” You said.

Getting specific at the county level can be difficult because of the small size of counties, You said. 

“For death, we actually use a state level (for projections) — that’s something were going to rethink in the future,” You said. “For migration, we use the county level migration rates. Trying to recognize differences among counties.”

(1) comment

Jane Finneran

Why so much reportage on race statistics? I think projections of the proportions of age groups is more helpful for understanding and planning for the next 30 years.

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