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"About a third of Texas has seen a 20-25% population loss in the last 5 years."
Has one-third of Texas seen a 25% population loss?
In 2019, the United States saw the slowest population growth rate in a century, according to an NPR analysis of Census Bureau data.
In a tweet sharing the analysis, state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, offered a figure of his own about population growth in Texas.
"Without immigration, America declines," Wu said in a tweet, which included several bald eagle and American flag emojis. He followed up in a second tweet.
"Oh, and in case anyone wants to add some kind of ‘we're full’ [expletive] comment…," Wu said. "About a third of Texas has seen a 20-25% population loss in the last 5 years."
The NPR analysis attributed the slow population growth rate to declining fertility rates and more deaths, as "post-World War II baby boomers reach old age." It also highlighted lower immigration rates, as the number of people moving to the United States from other countries has declined since 2016.
But is Wu’s statement about the population in a third of Texas accurate? An analysis of population estimates for Texas counties over the past five years shows that, while the population in about one third of the state's counties did go down, the decline was less pronounced than Wu’s tweet indicates.
As a whole, Texas population is growing
The estimated population in Texas has grown nearly 15% from 2010 to 2018, according to a report from the Texas Demographic Center based on Census Bureau estimates.
In 2010, the state’s population was estimated at more than 25.1 million. In 2018, that figure rose to more than 28.7 million.
Wu’s claim was limited to the last five years. Looking at the last five years of available Census Bureau data, from 2013 to 2018, the population in Texas grew roughly 9% — from 26.4 million to 28.7 million.
When we asked for evidence to support Wu’s claim, he initially shared a map that displayed the population of each state House district and how that population compares to the current "estimated ideal district size" of 182,797 people.
The map was provided to lawmakers during a legislative hearing about redrawing district maps, a task lawmakers will undertake in 2021, using the results of the 2020 census. Texas is divided into 150 state House districts, which are supposed to have equal population.
The map Wu shared compares the most recent five-year population estimates from the Census Bureau to the estimated ideal size for each district, highlighting the percent deviation from that size.
But the map does not support Wu’s claim. The map shows a comparison between a single population estimate for a district and the ideal district size. It does not depict change in population over time in each district.
When asked about the map, Wu said it was the wrong reference material from the hearing to support his claim. He said he received a different map that showed "massive declines" in population in parts of rural Texas, but did not have a copy of the map he could share.
Wu said his staff requested a copy of the map from the Texas Legislative Council, which produced the materials. PolitiFact also requested a copy of the map, but did not receive one by press time.
Measuring Texas in pieces
Of the state’s 254 counties, 87 (about one third) saw a decline in population from 2013 to 2018.
The bulk of these counties are in rural parts of Texas, as Wu said: in the panhandle and West Texas.
The three counties that saw the largest percent change in population were Mitchell, Schleicher and Wheeler counties, which each saw a reduction of about 9%. The remaining 84 counties saw a decline of 7% or less.
When considered together, the population across the 87 counties that shrunk saw a 2.8% decrease in population — the total population of those counties was about 1,338,000 in 2013 and about 1,300,000 in 2018
In 2018, the population in these 87 countries made up about 4.5% of the state’s total population.
Lila Valencia, a senior demographer at the Texas Demographic Center, came to the same conclusion after analyzing the numbers.
"Like you, I was unable to find population losses in the range of 20-25% over the last 5 years," she said in an email. "However, I was about to reproduce the third in Rep. Wu’s quote. Of the 254 Texas counties, 87 (or 34.25%, about a third) experienced population losses between 2013 and 2018."
Given that Wu said his map came from a hearing about redrawing statehouse district maps, PolitiFact asked Valencia to run the numbers on House districts using the most recent available data: five-year population estimates from the American Communities Survey.
"I just compared the 5-year estimates from ACS for 2012 and 2017, and I only see 6 districts with population losses during this time period," she said. "So I’m not sure that brings us any closer to Rep. Wu’s figures."
When presented with PolitiFact’s analysis, Wu said he could have interpreted the map incorrectly.
"I may have been mistaken in my understanding/interpretation of the data," he said in an email.
Wu said: "About a third of Texas has seen a 20-25% population loss in the last 5 years."
It’s true that one third of Texas counties saw a decline in population from 2013 to 2018, but the decline was less pronounced than Wu stated. The areas where the population decreased make up about 5% of the state’s overall population, which increased about 9% over the same period.
We rate this claim False.
Twitter, Gene Wu, Dec. 31, 2019
NPR, U.S. Population Growth In 2019 Is Slowest In A Century, Dec. 31, 2019
Texas Demographics Center, 2018 Estimated Population of Texas, Its Counties, and Places, December 2019
Texas Demographics Center, Total Population By County 2013, accessed Jan. 2, 2020
Texas Demographics Center, Total Population By County 2018, accessed Jan. 2, 2020
Email interview with Wu, Jan. 2, 2020
Email interview with Lila Valencia, Jan 7, 2019
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Has one-third of Texas seen a 25% population loss?
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