Houston vs. Chicago: A Tale of Two Growing Cities

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Houston, Texas, is one of the American cities that saw a significant rise in population during the last ten years. The city has attractions that keep the original residents and attract others to move and settle. Still, how does Houston fare against markedly more populated cities like Chicago? Will Houston surpass Chicago?

Houston will surpass Chicago at one point. It’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ it happens; it’s ‘when’ it occurs. In today’s article, we’ll explain why Houston is on its way to beating Chicago on the growth board. Additionally, we’ll also look at some statistics so we can have an idea about ‘when’ Houston will surpass Chicago.

Houston downtown skyscrapers in a circle with mirror blue sky reflection - Texas View

Houston vs. Chicago: Current Population

As of 2021, Chicago’s population is around 2.7 million. Houston, on the other hand, is still about 2.3 million. With approximately 400,000 extra residents in Chicago, Houston isn’t expected to surpass Chicago in a year or two.

But what about projecting these numbers ahead? We’ll need both cities’ population growth rates to have an idea. Groups of population, whether in a city, country or even a continent, are often subjected to a factor named population growth rate.

Unlike the number of people currently living in a place, population growth rates calculate how fast a population grows within a specific community.

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In other words, correctly answering whether Houston will surpass Chicago depends on knowing their growth rates. So, let’s talk numbers.

Chicago Skyline at Dawn - Texas View

Houston vs Chicago: Growth Rate

The table below will describe the difference in growth rate between Chicago and Houston in the past five years. This should give us an idea of whether Houston will surpass Chicago.

Chicago and Houston population growth rate (2018–2022)

As you can see, 2021 marked Houston’s lowest population growth rate (1.88%). However, this is still much higher than the highest Chicago growth rate (0.36%) 2018.

These percentage numbers might seem low or irrelevant. Let’s apply that percentage to the current population to give you a better picture.

In 2021, the 0.14% of Chicago’s 2.7 million population translated to 3,780 people. On the other hand, Houston’s 1.88% of its 2.3 million population translates into 43,240 people. That’s around 40,000 more people added to Houston’s population compared to Chicago in 2021 alone.

So, the statistics add up. Houston will indeed surpass Chicago at one point in terms of population. But when?

Chicago River Tourboat Downtown Chicago Skyscrapers - Texas View

When Will Houston Surpass Chicago?

Even when projecting the numbers for years ahead, it’s difficult to pinpoint an accurate time because of various probable reasons. However, if Houston maintains its current average population growth of around 40,000 people over Chicago, it should surpass Chicago within 8–10 years.

Many reasons could increase or decrease that waiting time, but Houston seems on its guaranteed way to surpass Chicago. But why, though?

Houston Texas USA Skyline - Texas View

Why Will Houston Surpass Chicago?

Houston has many reasons that make it a favorite city in the United States. Some of these reasons include:

1. Cultural Diversity

A city with cultural diversity will be much more appealing for outsiders to move in than a city dominated by a particular ethnicity. Houston houses many cultures to the point that it gets confusing to tourists. Here are the numbers:

  • White 23.69%
  • Native Americans 0.16%
  • African Americans 22.11%
  • Pacific Islanders 0.04%
  • Multiracial 2.34%
  • Latinos 43.97%
  • Other races 0.52%

With such diversity, you’re guaranteed to find people with similar cultures in Houston regardless of where you come from.

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2. No State Income Tax

Texas doesn’t have an individual income tax, which makes saving some money a bit easier. This applies to all of its cities.

The sales tax may still be relatively high at 8.25%, but the cost of living, in general, is relatively more affordable than in major U.S. cities like New York or Chicago, for example.

3. Industrial and Professional Opportunities

When you move to a different city, you’ll seek work opportunities or pleasure. Houston is one of those few cities that offer both.

Besides being a city with various activities to do, Houston is a fantastic place to start fresh or invest your hard-earned money.

Houston is a pioneer in the oil and gas industry. With over 5,000 energy corporations, many work opportunities exist for those who look hard enough.

4. Excellent Education

Houston has some of the best-rated schools in the state. Married people who intend to bring up their children in Houston won’t have to worry about a questionable quality of education.

While private education can be a little pricey, public schools are still more than enough.

High Rise Buildings in the City under the Cloudy Sky - Texas View

Houston Overtaking Chicago FAQs

Why is Houston booming?

Houston has many attractive elements like oil, health care, education, work opportunities, and affordability. The city doesn’t excel in a certain category but offers an overall life experience that most people can manage through.

Why are so many moving to Houston?

Houston has impressive job opportunities, zero individual tax, warm weather, and an affordable cost of living. This makes it more appealing than many other cities.

Is Houston bigger than Chicago?

From a land area perspective, Houston covers around 665 square miles, almost 3 times larger than Chicago’s 234.5 square miles.

Is Houston among the biggest growing American cities?

Houston, Texas is currently the 5th fastest-growing city in the United States. The top spot goes to Austin, which is also a Texan city.

Is Houston growing or shrinking?

Between 2020 and 2021, Houston lost approximately 12,000 of its residents. However, the city is still considered to be growing since the people it gained are more than the people it lost.


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Christian Linden Texas View Headshot 3 - Texas View
Author at Texas View | Texas View

Christian Linden is a seasoned writer and contributor at Texas View, specializing in topics that resonate with the Texan community. With over a decade of experience in journalism, Christian brings a wealth of knowledge in local politics, culture, and lifestyle. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Texas. When he's not writing, Christian enjoys spending weekends traveling across Texas with his family, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes.

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