MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen-Edinburg-Mission is now the fifth largest metropolitan statistical area in Texas, surpassing El Paso, the Census Bureau reports.

The Census Bureau issued its Population Estimates for July 2015 late last month.

Roberto Coronado, senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas-El Paso, said for many years, the El Paso metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was the largest MSA along the Texas-Mexico border region.

Roberto Coronado
Roberto Coronado

“I think it is worth noting, if you look at population growth from 1990 to 2015, the past 25 years, and if you look at the four metropolitan areas along the Texas-Mexico border, that is El Paso, Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, all four MSAs added about one million people,” Coronado said.

“McAllen’s growth was about 460,000 people. So, McAllen is responsible for almost half of the growth in population along the Texas-Mexico border. El Paso grew by about 250,000, Brownsville by about 160,000 and Laredo by about 140,000.”

The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Areas actually covers all of Hidalgo County. The name of the MSA is given to the three largest cities in the area.

According to the Census Bureau Population Estimates for July 2015, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA has a population of 842,304. El Paso has a population of 838,972. This shows the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA has a little over 3,300 more people. Last July, El Paso surpassed McAllen by about 7,100 people.

“Clearly, when we are looking at growth rates of population on average, McAllen has been growing over this 25-year period, McAllen has been growing about 3.2 percent,” Coronado said. “El Paso has been growing at about 1.4 percent. McAllen has been growing twice as fast when it comes to population growth. That is why McAllen has surpassed El Paso as far as size in population is concerned.”

160731-notes on population estimates

Coronado said there are two ways a population grows: natural growth–births minus deaths–and migration. Over the past five years, 2010 to 2015, McAllen grew significantly due to natural births. However, El Paso has lost people due to migration.

“McAllen added about 68,000 people and bulk of it is natural growth, about 65,000. Migration only added about 2,000, which is interesting because that is on net. You have had, over this five-year window, a number of international migrants moving into McAllen, close to about 11,000,” Coronado said.

“But you have had many of your residents moving somewhere else. You have had about 8,500 people leaving McAllen to other areas. On net you have had a growth due to migration of about 2,000. The bulk of it has been natural growth. Basically births outpacing deaths. In El Paso we have had growth in natural births, but we have had a drag in population growth due to migration. We have had some international migration into El Paso, but the out migration has actually doubled in size. So, we have lost people to net migration in El Paso.”

Because of strong growth in births, McAllen has one of the youngest populations along the border, Coronado said. The median age for McAllen is 28.4 years. In Texas, the median age is 33.9 and in the United States it is 37.4.

“McAllen’s median population is about ten years younger than the U.S.,” Coronado said. “That brings a lot of opportunities, but it also brings challenges as well.”

The numbers presented are estimates. Coronado said in 2020, this data will be revised upwards or downwards when the official Census count is taken.

Coronado predicted that McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA would overtake El Paso MSA in population when he spoke in McAllen in November, 2015. Coronado predicted McAllen would move into 5th position in Texas sometime in 2016. The economist spoke at the Border Economic Development & Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted jointly by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, UT-Rio Grande Valley and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.

Coronado told the Rio Grande Guardian last week that his predictions were off because McAllen actually overtook El Paso sometime in the first half of 2015. The estimates for July, 2015, were only issued by the Census Bureau last month.

One consequence of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA moving into Texas’ top five MSAs is that it will be featured in economist Ray Perryman’s regular analysis of Texas’ largest MSAs. Before, McAllen was ranked in the smaller MSA category.

“When we release our short-term forecast in the fall, we will be moving McAllen to the large MSA category,” Perryman said.

Perryman’s economic analysis columns appear each week in the Rio Grande Guardian.

Editor’s Note: Reporter Steve Taylor contributed to this story from Weslaco.