Population Trends in Texas by University and County
The US Census Bureau released the newest edition of the American Community Survey (ACS) data last week, publishing updated 5-year estimates (2017-2021). The timeliness of this release allows us to explore the most up-to-date data regarding trends in the population in Texas. This blog post narrows the focus from the previous post that took a macro view of national and statewide trends in terms of age-related categories. The narrative and visualizations below look at age-related changes in the population in Texas as it relates to the the counties that surround each public university in Texas.
What do age-related trends look like near campuses?
As shown in the previous blog post, the state of Texas is generally getting older over time, as is every state except North Dakota. While Texas is one of the youngest states in America with a median age of 35.5 years in 2021, the age-related trends demonstrate some variation by counties of Texas. In the first visualization below (Universities), the circles surrounding each public university represent a 50-mile radius around each campus. Below the circle (shaded in light green) are the counties whose centroids lie within that 50-mile circle of the campus. Hovering over each circle will provide a pop-up tooltip that shows age-related trends aggregated across the counties within the 50-mile circle, including a bar chart that shows age-group level trends from 2012 to 2021.
Texas Public Universities
- The universities located in the “Youngest” areas as defined by the 50-mile circles are Texas A&M International University (TAMIU, 30.0 years in 2021), University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV, 32.2 years in 2021), and University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP, 32.6 years in 2021).
- The universities located in the “Oldest” surrounding areas are University of Houston-Victoria (UHV, 42.0 years in 2021), Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT, 44.1 years in 2021), and Sul Ross State University (SRSU, 49.1 years in 2021).
- Out of the 35 public universities shown below, six of them are located in areas with populations that are getting younger over time. Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) is the campus with the largest drop in median age from 35.5 in 2012 to 34.3 in 2021, a decrease of 1.2 years. The other institutions within areas that were “Younger” in 2021 are Angelo Status University (ASU, 40.8 in 2012 to 40.0 in 2021), University of Texas-Permian Basin (UTPB, 35.3 in 2012 to 34.7 in 2021), West Texas A&M University (WTAMU, 36.8 in 2012 to 36.2 in 2021), Midwestern State University (MSU, 41.8 in 2012 to 41.5 in 2021), and University of Houston-Victoria (UHV, 42.2 in 2012 to 42.0 in 2021).
- Sul Ross State University (SRSU) experienced the largest average age increase in the ACS data, going from an average of 43.3 years in 2012 to 49.1 years in 2021. Three other institutions are located in areas where the average age increased by at least 1.5 years from 2012 to 2021: University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin, 38.0 in 2012 to 39.6 in 2021, 1.6 year increase); UTRGV (30.4 in 2012 to 32.2 in 2021, 1.8 year increase); and, TAMIU, (27.9 in 2012 to 30.0 in 2021, 2.1 year increase).
- The map of Texas counties shows which counties were either older (dark blue), younger (gray), or the same (yellow) when comparing median age from 2012 to 2021.
- In the ACS data estimates, 88 counties in Texas (35%) were younger in 2021 than they were in 2012, while 162 counties were older (64%). Four were the same.
- Even though one-third of the counties in Texas grew younger from 2012 to 2021, the proportion of the population living in “Younger” versus “Older” counties is dramatically different. Out of the 29 million Texans in 2021, more than 26 million of them live in counties that have a population that is older in 2021 than in 2012. This represents 92% of the total population in Texas. Even though the counties in gray on the map (younger population in 2021 than 2012) are distributed across the state, less than 8% of the population in Texas (about 2.2 million people) live in these “Younger” counties.
- The vast majority of the 67 counties in the Texas Triangle, a megaregion ranging from Dallas-Fort Worth to San Antonio to Houston, have grown older since 2012. The percentage of Texans living within the Texas Triangle increased from 72.5% in 2012 (18.3 million of 25.2 million) to almost 75% in 2021 (21.6 million of 29 million). The average age in Texas Triangle counties was 33.7 in 2012 and was 35.2 in 2021, as compared to the average age in non-Texas Triangle counties of 34.3 in 2012 and 34.9 in 2021.
Changes in the age of a population serve as a leading indicator for future issues/concerns related to enrollment in Texas’ colleges and universities. As we have seen in these blog posts, Texas is getting older and is becoming even more centralized along the Interstate 35/Interstate 10/Interstate 45 “Texas Triangle.” Although not a new phenomena, these trends represent an ever-increasing challenge for campuses that are not geo-located within this specific area of the state. Shifting age-related demographics is only part of the story when examining trends affecting current and future enrollment in higher education in Texas. Coupled with a generally-older population in the state is the steady change in the racial/ethnic composition of Texas, variables that we will explore further in the next posts in the series coming in January 2023.