Top 10 Biggest and Fastest-Growing Areas in the US

March 25, 2009

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Though New York, Los Angeles and Chicago remain America’s most populous metropolitan areas by far, Raleigh-Cary, N.C. and Austin-Round Rock, Tex., grew the fastest between 2007 and 2008, according to July 1, 2008, population estimates from the US Census Bureau.

Raleigh-Cary saw its population climb 4.3%, to 1.1 million, between July 1, 2007, and July 1, 2008, the data showed. Similarly, Austin-Round Rock experienced a 3.8% increase, to 1.7 million. These two large metro areas were among 47 of the 50 fastest-growing areas located entirely in the South or West.


The Census data also reveals that large metropolitan areas – those with 2008 populations of 1 million or more – are home to nine of the 10 fastest-growing counties. These areas include New Orleans, which contains St. Bernard Parish and neighboring Orleans Parish. The nation’s second-fastest-growing county in 2008 was Pinal in Arizona, which is part of the Phoenix metro area.

The Chicago metro area was home to the fourth-fastest-growing county, Kendall, and the Atlanta metro area was home to fifth-ranked Forsyth County, the US Census Bureau said. In Texas, the Austin metro area was the location of sixth-ranked Williamson and 10th-ranked Hays, San Antonio includes eighth-ranked Kendall, and Dallas-Fort Worth includes ninth-ranked Rockwall. Only seventh-ranked Geary, Kan., did not belong to a large metro area.

High-Growth Areas

Four metropolitan areas increased their populations by more than 100,000 people between 2007 and 2008: Dallas-Fort Worth (147,000), Houston (130,000), Phoenix (116,000) and Atlanta (115,000). Los Angeles (88,000) ranked fifth.

Four of the five counties with the largest numeric gains were in one of these metro areas: top-gaining Maricopa County, Ariz. (which accounted for 90,000 of the Phoenix metro gain), Harris County, Texas (contributing 72,000 of the Houston metro gain), Los Angeles County, Calif. (54,000 of the Los Angeles metro gain) and Tarrant County, Texas (accounting for 41,000 of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro gain). (Table 4)

Among the 10 counties that added the largest number of residents during the period, four were in Southern California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and Orange), three were in Texas (Harris, Tarrant and Bexar), and one each was in Arizona (Maricopa), Nevada (Clark) and North Carolina (Wake).

Most Populous Metro Areas and Counties

The most populous metropolitan areas on July 1, 2008, were New York (19.0 million people), Los Angeles (12.9 million) and Chicago (9.6 million).


Additionally, 14 metro areas had populations of 4 million or more, the data showed. The most populous counties were Los Angeles (9.9 million), Chicago’s Cook (5.3 million) and Houston’s Harris (4.0 million). Overall, 12 counties had populations of 2 million or more.

As of July 1, 2008, the nation’s 363 metro areas contained 254.2 million people – 83.6% of the total population. Of these areas, 313 gained and 50 lost population between 2007 and 2008. Among the nation’s 3,142 counties, 1,974 gained population, 1,161 lost and seven remained unchanged.

Additional county highlights:

  • Among the 100 fastest-growing counties, the majority were in Texas (19), Georgia (14), North Carolina (11) or Utah (nine).
  • Texas was home to 10 counties among the 25 with the highest numerical gains and California to six. Each of the top 25 was in the South or West, with the exception of Cook, Ill. (Chicago).
  • Five counties were among both the 25 fastest-growing and the 25 top numerical gainers: Pinal, Ariz.; Orleans, La.; Williamson, Texas; Fort Bend, Texas; and Wake, N.C.
  • Eight of the 10 fastest-growing counties between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2008, were located in metro areas with 2008 populations of two million or more.
  • The three counties with the largest numeric gains over the period were found in top gaining metro areas: Maricopa, Ariz. (which contributed 882,000 of Phoenix’s gain); Harris, Texas (which accounted for 584,000 of Houston’s gain); and Riverside, Calif. (contributing 555,000 of Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario’s gain).
  • Maricopa County’s gain since Census 2000 has exceeded the population of six states.

Additional metropolitan area highlights:

  • Between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2008, the fastest-growing metro area was Palm Coast, Fla., increasing by 83.1%. (Its single county, Flagler, was the second-fastest growing county.)
  • Four western metro areas (St. George, Utah; Provo-Orem, Utah; Greeley, Colo.; and Bend, Ore.) rounded out the five fastest-growing metro areas.
  • Three of the 10 fastest-growing metro areas had 2008 populations of one million or more: Raleigh (sixth), Las Vegas (seventh) and Austin (10th).
  • Four metro areas had numeric gains of more than 1 million over the period: Dallas-Fort Worth (1.14 million), Atlanta (1.13 million), Phoenix (1.03 million) and Houston (1.01 million). Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., which gained 861,000, ranked fifth.
  • Four of the 10 fastest-growing metro areas were in Utah and Idaho: Provo-Orem and St. George in Utah, Idaho Falls in Idaho, and Logan, which encompasses parts of Utah and Idaho.
  • San Juan was the most populous metro area in Puerto Rico, at 2.6 million in 2008. It also had the highest numeric gain on the island (8,600) from 2007 to 2008. The San Juan metro area contained the municipio with the largest population in 2008 (San Juan, at 423,000), the one with the largest numeric gain from 2007 to 2008 (Toa Alta, with 2,200) and the fastest-growing (Florida, at 2.9%).

About the data: The county and municipio resident population estimates are calculated using administrative records to estimate components of population change, such as births, deaths, domestic and international migration. The estimates reflect changes to the Census 2000 population resulting from legal boundary updates, other geographic program changes and Count Question Resolution (CQR) actions.

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