There’s been a lot of worry for the Texas economy as the price of oil has fallen, and those worries may prove to be valid. They may not—the Texas economy is considerably more diverse than just “oil,” these days—but the issues there are complex, and worth exploring. (Our own Erica Grieder has been keeping a close eye on them, and recently downgraded her analysis from “keep calm and keep drilling” to “mild consternation.”) But while the big picture of the status of the oil industry in the state may be unwritten, the local economies in cities throughout the state are continuing to boom.
That’s the takeaway, anyway, from this study by financial website WalletHub, which looked at the fastest-growing economies in the U.S., and found that basically all of them are in Texas. Let’s take a look at the top fifteen:
- Odessa, Texas
- Frisco, Texas
- Midland, Texas
- Mission, Texas
- College Station, Texas
- Killeen, Texas
- Kent, Washington
- Bryan, Texas
- Austin, Texas
- Round Rock, Texas
- McKinney, Texas
- Edinburg, Texas
- San Marcos, California
- Pharr, Texas
- Allen, Texas
So only two are non-Texas cities (and we’re like 10 percent convinced they actually meant “San Marcos, Texas”—though our Kent only has a general store in it, so we’ll give that one to Washington). That reveals some things that we already kind of knew: One, Texas cities are continuing to boom; and two, that boom is happening all over. Although there’s obviously a lot of growth in the fracking parts of West Texas, with Midland and Odessa both settling in nicely in the top three, the entire state is represented here: both Austin and Round Rock place, as do Bryan and College Station. Valley neighbors Mission, Edinburg, and Pharr are all on the list, and North Texas suburbs Frisco, McKinney, and Allen all place, as well. Even Killeen represents well here. (Houston and the surrounding areas don’t place in the top fifteen, but for a national list, they’re still doing well—Pearland comes in at 28, or before any city in 39 of the 50 states check in to the list.)
It’s worth noting that, while much of the growth is in suburban areas, that’s not the sole driver of success: Frisco, Round Rock, McKinney, and Allen all certainly qualify as suburbs, but the Valley cities, or the ones in West Texas, don’t. There are plenty of engines of economic growth in suburban Texas, and not all of them are great news (if the suburbs boom because the “urb” they surround suffers, that’s not exactly a victory), but that doesn’t explain the boom in places like Bryan/College Station and Killeen—or, indeed, the boom in Austin, the largest city to place in the top fifteen by a wide margin. Smaller cities are always going to grow faster, simply because there’s more space to grow, but at every level, Texas fares well.
WalletHub helpfully breaks down the data by the size of the city, as well. You can check out just the 62 largest cities in the country to see how they rank, and Texas does well there, too. Three of the top five (Austin, Fort Worth, and Corpus Christi) are in Texas, and Houston (9), San Antonio (11), and El Paso (15) all represent the state nicely. The lowest-ranked large city in Texas, Arlington (#28), still places ahead of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Boston. Meanwhile, all of the top five mid-sized cities in the U.S., in terms of the rate at which their economies are growing, are here in Texas, too, and five of the top six small cities, as well (they all appear on that list up above, if you’re curious which they are).
The list was compiled by looking at two different sets of circumstances, and weighting them each equally: The “socio-demographic landscape,” which is a combination of population growth, the growth in the population of people aged 16-64 (or “working-age population”), and the decrease in the poverty rate; and the “jobs & economic environment,” which looked at things like median household income growth, unemployment rate decrease, job growth, regional GDP, number of businesses, median home values, and the movement in the ratio of full-to-part-time jobs.
Of course, that data isn’t from 2015—the numbers that WalletHub looked at ranged from 2008 to 2014, so it’s possible that the numbers, after oil’s fall, have changed. That’s probably mostly true in places like Midland and Odessa, whose economies are so built around oil, but even those numbers—while down in recent months—haven’t fallen as significantly as some feared. In other words, if one were to make this list looking mostly at 2015 data, the odds are pretty good that it wouldn’t look all that different—more likely, some of the Texas cities might just have swapped order.
In all, lists like this are fun—who doesn’t like being number one? (And two, and three, and four, and five, and six, and also numbers eight through twelve, and fourteen and fifteen, too?)—but they only look at a portion of the big picture. Growth is good, but it can leave people out (that’s especially true in cities where the industries that drive growth have changed rapidly, like in Austin), and the sustainability of the growth is fairly complex. But if you want some more Texas economy bragging rights, this isn’t going to do anything to hurt that.