HOUSTON - Long a magnet for families seeking
economic opportunity, Texas appears to have begun to lose population
to other states, probably for the first time in the 150 years since
it gained independence from Mexico.
While firm numbers are not yet available, demographers say most
indicators, such as postal deliveries and housing vacancies, point
to the conclusion that Texas, the third most populous state, after
California and New York, has become a net exporter of people as a
result of the collapse of world oil prices.
The trend is a dramatic reversal for Texas, where relentless
growth has long been almost as much a part of the mystique as
gushers, swaggery oil men and longhorns.
Nearly every aspect of economic and social life in Texas has
been touched by the migration change. Last week Faith West, a
church on the once fast-growing west side of Houston, filed for
bankruptcy protection, citing a drastic fall in membership. On any
day 8,500 of the 17,000 hospital beds in Harris County, which inclu
Further, nearly one of every five apartments is vacant in the
Houston area, and average apartment rents have fallen to $303 a
month, about the lowest of any major city, according to Real Estate
Valuations and Consultants. While not so heavily affected as
Houston by the population slowdown, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and
San Antonio also find themselves greatly overbuilt, with property
values and rents dropping in many areas.
Apart from neighboring states, Texans are moving mainly to
California and Florida, as well as to such Northern industrial
states as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and New York, which were the
sources of huge waves of migrants in Texas's boom years.
According to new forecasts by economists for the Texas
Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas will incur a net out-migration
of 41,000 people next year, assuming oil remains at an average price
of slightly over $15 a barrel for the year.
Numerous experts say the tide has already turned. C.A. Kasdorf
III, a demographer with the Houston Chamber of Commerce, estimates
that 100,000 more people will have moved out of Texas than into the
state from other states this year, with about half this loss coming
from the hard-hit Houston area. By contrast, as recently as
1981-82, at the height of the oil boom, Texas experienced a net
influx of nearly 400,000, according to the Census Bureau. …