(Tom Fox/Staff Photographer)
Great ideas exist wherever great minds gather
Out-of-state newcomers flock to Texas in numbers that aren’t letting up

To the outsider, analyzing domestic migration into Texas might seem like a droll intellectual pursuit. But the numbers reveal a new way of looking at our state, a new way to understand how high-tech jobs, a lower cost of living and a higher quality of life have made Texas an attractive option for some of the best and brightest minds in America, luring them away from crowded, expensive coastal cities like San Francisco and New York.

My roles as the Texas state demographer and director of the Texas Demographic Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio give me incredible insight into how populations move in and out of the state.

One trend that has remained unchanged for nearly a decade: Texas has led all states in net domestic migration, resulting in an estimated 1,019,434 new residents moving to our state between 2010 and 2017, or 385 per day. And the influx does not appear to be subsiding.

Between 2010 and 2014, the Austin metro area gained nearly 20,000 domestic migrants, San Antonio’s numbers jumped nearly 9,000, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington saw an increase of more than 23,000, and the Houston metro area more than 30,000.

This shows that migration from outside of the state is fueling urbanization in Texas. The state’s metro regions garnered 94% of the total domestic migration between 2010 and 2014, according to statistics compiled by the Texas Demographic Center.

The question quickly becomes, who is moving to Texas and why?

The 2017 American Community Survey shows for most new arrivals, their last states of residence were California, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois and New York. In fact, more than 63,000 people moved from California to Texas in 2017.

The why question is a little trickier, but certain factors are undeniable. Texas’ major cities provide a high quality of life and a lower cost-of-living than those in California and New York. And the influx of highly educated people have established influential hubs of industry in sectors as diverse as tech, telecommunications, health care, higher education and energy.

I have an acquaintance in the tech industry who recently sold his condo in San Francisco. He moved to the Austin area, bought a house and a small ranch in the Hill Country, and still had money left over. Though that evidence is anecdotal, I think it’s still indicative of the mindset a lot of professionals carry when they leave coastal cities for Texas.

With tech companies such as AT&T, Dell, NEC and Texas Instruments based in Texas, combined with a thriving startup scene in Austin, the state is becoming an increasingly important innovation epicenter.

Innovation no longer exists only in coastal cities where rents, never mind mortgages, are skyrocketing far past what normal employed people can afford. Great ideas exist wherever great minds gather, and Texas is well positioned to fill that space.

That’s why studying population data is so important. It helps us know not only who is moving here, but why they’re doing it. Armed with that information, we can understand what makes Texas so attractive to these innovative, world-class minds.

Lloyd Potter is the Texas state demographer, director of the Texas Demographic Center and interim dean of the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio.