Houston may surpass Chicago as America’s 3rd largest city

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CHICAGO — The title of America’s third largest city, which Chicago has held since 1990, may soon be heading south.

A recent study by Rice University found that Houston’s population will surpass Chicago’s by 2030 if the two city’s maintain their current growth rates.

This notion has been thrown around since the two cities went head-to-head in the 2005 World Series, but it now seems inevitable.

Chicago’s population currently stands at about 2.72 million with Houston coming in at 2.23 million, but the Space City is catching up quickly. Over the last four years, Houston’s population has grown at an average rate of 1.59 percent while Chicago’s has “slowed to a crawl,” creeping along at 0.23 percent. The difference was especially pronounced in 2014, when the Windy City added a mere 82 people, but Houston was flooded with 36,000 new residents.

The study reports that the drastic difference in growth rates is a simple matter of geography. Chicago is essentially landlocked, surrounded on all sides by developed communities and Lake Michigan, while Houston, which sits largely in the middle of the Texas countryside, has abundant area to expand to accommodate an influx of people.

And size matters too. Chicago is squeezed into a relatively small 228 square miles, while Houston sprawls across 600 square miles. Put simply, Houston just has more room.

But there’s time yet. Even if Houston’s rapid population growth continues while Chicago’s remains stagnant, Chicagoans still have about 15 years to boast that their city is tops. And even after 2030, that’s not likely to change.

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9 comments

  • JWW

    Difference is geography? Seriously?? Texas/Houston are pro- business, pro-growth, balanced budgets, $12B surplus. Illinois/ Chicago are broke, $100B in debt, anti-business, adding new taxes almost every week. Loosing jobs/population state-wide.

    • Will

      Couldn’t agree more! The only thing Chicago knows how to do is raise taxes on a shrinking middle and upper middle class. The public school system drives taxes up while consistently failing year after year (Once known as the “worst school system in the nation.”) Pensions are out of control, unions paralyze progress, and politicians are passing budgets with billion dollar short falls. Chicago is well on its way to becoming another Detroit. The north side tax base will continue to flee the city – and all that will be left are the ones who depend on the government for everything.

  • Think...

    Chicago is a world-class alpha city. It’s economy is generally considered one of the most, if not the most, diversified in the world (certainly North America). It is home to some of the most prestigious post-secondary academic institutions. Chicago hosts over 50 million domestic and international visitors annually, most of whom come to experience far superior (Manhattan an exception) cultural, art, and entertainment institutions. It’s topography, with miles of skyscrapers rubbing elbows against a seemingly endless line of fresh-water lake frontage and sandy beaches, is enjoyed (and envied) by tens of millions of people. Chicago, along with it’s neighboring suburbs, is home to some of the most affluent and walk-able communities in the United States, which is supported by a number of, an ever increasing number as of late, diversified top-tier companies. It boasts streets, that’s right, streets, that are known globally. Chicago? A world-class alpha city. Huston? Good luck with that.

  • Joe

    Hahaha… So hilarious that some lazy WGN intern actually posted this 2-month old blog post from a Rice University (Houston-based institution) student. Anyone who actually reads the original BLOG post will see that it’s clickbait. The post actually states “there is no scientific basis to these population growth predictions.” And Chicago has no room to grow?? How about vast swaths of lots in the south and west sides, paired with the fact that our city has always embraced UPWARD growth… Haha… Our downtown was the fastest growing of any major city in the U.S. from 2000-2010. Why? Because people are choosing to live MORE densly, not less (a.k.a. Houston). I mean, no wonder most outlets are going under or cutting jobs like mad these days…