For more than thirty years, three of the country’s ten largest cities have been in Texas. New York, L.A., and Chicago have held the top three spots for generations. In 1990, Houston ascended to number four, where it has remained ever since. That same year, San Antonio first cracked the top ten, and Dallas held firm at number eight. 

Back then, Austin was all the way back at number 25, with a population of just less than a half million, behind Milwaukee (currently number 31), New Orleans (number 53), and Cleveland (number 54). In the decades since, the population of Austin has doubled to more than 974,000. According to the 2022 census update, that astonishing growth was enough to finally tip the city into the top ten, marking the first time that Texas has been able to claim four of the ten largest cities in the country. (California, with both Los Angeles and San Diego, is the only other state with more than one.) 

Moving into the top ten was inevitable for Austin, which has steadily grown while its competition—the previous tenth-largest city on the list, San José, California—has been mostly stagnant since 2010. After the unusual 2020 Census, experts and officials in San José acknowledged that the population of Austin may have been undercounted, while their own city’s may have been overcounted. But late last week, when the U.S. Census Bureau published its 2022 update, it was official: Austin is the tenth-largest city in the country—at least for now. 

While Austin’s population has increased 1.31 percent since 2020, it’s not the only city to surpass San José, which declined by 4 percent. The new number eleven—Jacksonville, Florida—grew at double the rate of Austin over the same two-year period. Austin’s cracked the top ten, in other words, but it’s hard to say whether it’ll stay there when the Census Bureau releases next year’s estimate. (One thing will remain true: Austin is the only city in the top ten without a team in any of the three major U.S. sports leagues.) 

Austin’s ascension into the tier of the nation’s largest cities is notable, but the capital isn’t even the fastest-growing big city in the state—that distinction falls to Fort Worth, which saw a gaudy 4 percent increase in population since 2020, bringing the population to 956,709 (number 13 on the list). This makes Cowtown the fastest-growing big city in the country by a wide margin. In fact, if the growth trends in Austin, Fort Worth, and Jacksonville hold for 2023, Fort Worth could displace Austin from number ten, sending the city down to number twelve behind Jacksonville.

Does any of this actually matter? Kind of. It’s useful, in a broad sense, to understand that Fort Worth has been booming at a rate nearly four times faster than the more closely watched Austin. And it’s important to understand that all of this growth comes with both advantages (jobs, business, culture) and challenges (affordability, infrastructure, natural resources). While Fort Worth and Austin’s ranking on a list doesn’t change that, the census update offers a good opportunity for leaders to recognize that these cities are among the largest in the nation now. Austin, for example, has clung to an identity as a sleepy college town when it comes to addressing policy issues such as zoning—with important ramifications for housing affordability in the country’s  tenth-largest metropolis. There are no snoozing panthers on the streets of Fort Worth these days, either, but the budget for the city’s Trinity Metro public transportation service is a fraction of what Austin spends on its service, and $35 million less than Jacksonville. (The city will also close its central library at the end of June, which doesn’t scream “major metropolis.”) 

Consider this: If Fort Worth and Dallas (whose population fell by less than four-tenths of a percent) continue their current population trends for the rest of the decade, Panther City would would join Big D in the more-than-a-million-residents club by the 2030 Census—plan accordingly!

Not every Texas city is growing. In addition to the slight dip for Dallas, Houston’s population remained essentially flat between 2020 and 2022, dipping by less than one-tenth of a percent. At that rate, Houston’s inexorable eclipsing of Chicago as the third-largest city in the U.S. has merely slowed, since the Windy City lost nearly 3 percent of its population. Looking at metropolitan regions, both the Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston metros grew by sizable increases—even as the metropolitan regions encompassing New York, L.A., and Chicago all fell. 

That suggests that Texas suburbs are booming even more than the cities, and the census data bears that out. Two additional Texas cities joined the 100,000-plus club—New Braunfels, near San Antonio, and Conroe, just north of Houston—bringing the total number of cities in the state to cross that threshold up to 42. And the fastest-growing city of any size in the U.S.? It’s the Austin suburb of Georgetown, which grew from 67,012 residents in April 2020 to 86,507 in July 2022, averaging a staggering 29 percent increase over two years. Rounding out the five fastest-growing small cities are three other Texas towns—Kyle, Leander, and Little Elm, at numbers three, four, and five, respectfully (Santa Cruz, California, straggled into the number two spot). 

The Census Bureau releases its updates throughout the year; in March, new statewide data revealed that Texas had officially surpassed 30 million residents, becoming just the second state to cross that threshold. There are still nine million more Californians, but the data affirms that, yes, Texas really is that big—and still growing.