CHICAGO — Chicago will soon be overtaken by Houston as the third-largest city in the United States, according to a new study.
Chicago has long been one of the most populous cities in the United States, and it's been a point of pride. But, the city's growth has fallen while other American cities have seen their populations boom.
In fact, from 2014 to 2015, the city's population grew by just 82 people, with some attributing the low number to weather and transit and finance problems, among other factors. The study suggests that room to grow — Houston has a lot more of it — also plays a role.
Chicago now has about 2.72 million people while Houston's population is about 2.23 million, according to a study from the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University. That means there's a difference of roughly 500,000 people, which may seem impressive, but that gap is expected to close since Houston's population growth significantly outpaces Chicago's.
In terms of numbers, Chicago's population growth averaged just .23 percent per year over the last four years. During the same period, Houston's population growth averaged 1.59 percent per year. The study described Chicago's population growth as having "slowed to a crawl" while "strong" growth has persisted in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country.
There are still 15 years to turn things around — Houston isn't expected to overtake Chicago until 2030, and that's only if the two cities maintain their recent population growth, according to the study.
At least part of Houston's population and area growth can be attributed to the Texas city's long history of annexation, an option that isn't as available to Chicago since it's surrounded by developed communities (can you imagine how the Evanstonians would react?).
Houston "has the employment trajectory, and it has the land area," said Dowell Myers, who teaches urban planning and demographics at the University of Southern California, according to the study. "The Sun Belt cities are attracting growth because they have the land area. And because of that, they're destined to surpass the landlocked, older cities like Chicago."
And Chicago has been surpassed before: It used to be the second-largest city in the United States, but Chicago's population was eclipsed by Los Angeles' after the 1990 census.
Still, Chicago's status and size has long been a point of pride: One of the points of a star on the city's flags is often said to represent the city's status and the second- and then third-largest city in the United States (others say it represents a short time in Chicago's history as the third-largest city in the world).
Chicago's also the only city in the Midwest to break the top 10 for largest cities in the United States. The closest Midwestern city is Indianapolis at No. 14. Texas, on the other hand, has three cities in the top 10: Houston at No. 4, San Antonio at No. 7 and Dallas at No. 9.
By The Numbers
• July 1, 2010: 2,697,319
• July 1, 2011: 2,705,627
• July 1, 2012: 2,715,415
• July 1, 2013: 2,722,307
• July 1, 2014: 2,722,389
• July 1, 2010: 2,102,421
• July 1, 2011: 2,129,784
• July 1, 2012: 2,164,834
• July 1, 2013: 2,203,806
• July 1, 2014: 2,239,558
Information based on U.S. Census population estimates.
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