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The Depressing Reality About Dallas in the New U.S. Census Numbers

While 8.1 million people now live in North Texas, people continue to flee Dallas County.
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People are coming to North Texas, but they are not moving to Dallas. The regional success story told in this week’s Census data dump—8.1 million people now call the region home for the first time—is not actually a tale about the center of our metro area, Dallas County, which charted a meager growth that was outpaced by even Kaufman County.

Dallas County added about 4,300 people in 2023, only because there were about twice as many births as there were deaths. Last year, more people decided to leave Dallas County than those who moved here. The most populous county in North Texas lost more existing residents than all but seven other counties in the nation. The domestic migration numbers are particularly depressing: 34,330 U.S. residents packed up and left. Luckily, about 19,000 people moved here from other countries, making Dallas’ loss 15,057. The 39,000 babies who were born last year is the only reason the county had any population growth.

Compare that to Collin County, which welcomed 28,886 new people. Or Denton County, where 23,090 now have new addresses. Tarrant County added another 14,000. I jabbed at Kaufman, but by percentage, it’s the fastest growing county in the country. It added about 12,000 new people, a 7.6 percent increase. And remember, those numbers do not include births; they are the raw totals of the human beings who made a decision to move to one of those suburban counties.

This is rough news for Dallas, which, one year ago was buzzing after finally landing in the black on the annual U.S. Census report. The .5 percent increase in population—a little under 13,000 total—was the most significant gain for Dallas County since 2017. This year’s increase was about .16 percent; but again, the real story is about how people are choosing to pick up and leave.

We don’t know exactly where in Dallas County is losing all these people; the city breakdown generally lags the county analysis. We do know the city of Dallas lost about 15,000 people from 2020 to 2021, and then added a little under 9,000 between 2021 and 2022.

This has to be alarming for city and county officials. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is planning for 12 million people in the region by 2045, which will lead to infrastructure investments that further the sprawl and make it even easier to leave the city proper. Dallas is competing for people, which means it’s never been more important for the municipal government to craft pro-growth policies and ensure that the nuts and bolts of building permits get sorted out.

As the Bush Institute’s Cullum Clark wrote last year in the Dallas Morning News, Frisco built seven times the amount of housing units as the city of Dallas from 2015 and 2022. He cites that city’s “exemplary” housing policies, and a “streamlined” and “efficient” permitting and zoning processes.

That’s what Dallas is up against. That 8.1 million people now live here is a remarkable statistic, but the more important story is that the beating heart of North Texas is not, and has not been, sharing in that success.

Author

Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

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Matt Goodman is the online editorial director for D Magazine. He's written about a surgeon who killed, a man who…

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