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.