The Texas population will expand substantially by 2050. It will also be older and, most likely, sicker. Hispanics will be the majority, with the number of Asian Americans also growing fairly rapidly, while the number of non-Hispanic whites begins to shrink.

Public schools in the state will need to accommodate nearly twice as many students. The implications for infrastructure, education, health care systems, and social services are profound, and we need to be preparing. Here are some of the major changes we’re going to see.

Growth in the population has two sources: the natural increase (births minus deaths) and net migration (both from other states and from foreign countries). The Office of the State Demographer and the Texas State Data Center project population through 2050 under varying assumptions regarding net migration. The 1.0 migration scenario presumes future migration occurs at a rate equal to what occurred between 2000 and 2010, while the 0.5 migration scenario reflects net migration at a rate half of the 2000-2010 period.

Looking out 35 years is difficult, because so much can change over several decades. However, the 1.0 scenario cannot be entirely ruled out. With a diverse economy and the resulting job opportunities, the potential for a comeback in oil and natural gas, and other factors, we could see continued expansion at the 2000-2010 rate. If that happens, the population of Texas would reach 55.2 million in 2050, up from about 27.5 million as of the most recent Census Bureau estimate (July 2015). While the 1.0 scenario is a possibility, the 0.5 scenario is probably more realistic and is currently the one recommended for use in planning.

Under the 0.5 scenario, the Texas population would reach 41.3 million by 2050 (our dynamic model, which predicts migration based on economic performance, projects around 44.8 million). The majority of counties are expected to grow, though a number of more sparsely populated areas are projected to decline. Much of the overall growth is expected to occur within the state’s large, urban areas. The fastest growing counties will be those surrounding the urban counties of Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, and Travis. Hidalgo County is also among the fastest growing, and selected counties in the panhandle and along the border are also forecast to experience relatively rapid increases.

This population expansion will lead to a need for additional roadways, water supplies, and other infrastructure. Many of the state’s major highways are already in need of upgrading to handle current congestion, and adding millions of residents will exacerbate the problem. Although some progress has been made in terms of providing for the necessary funding, there is still work to be done. Similarly, while voters have approved additional funding for water supplies, more will be needed to ensure adequate fresh water is available in the future. These types of infrastructure enhancements do not happen overnight, and the longer we wait to dig out of the current hole, the more expensive and difficult it will be to fix the problems.

The Texas population will also be aging. The age group expected to grow the fastest is the 65 and older category, which is expected to triple in size between 2010 and 2050. With nearly eight million 65+ persons projected in 2050 under the 0.5 migration scenario, the proportion falling into that age range will grow from just over ten percent of total Texans in 2010 to more than 19 percent in 2050. Older persons generally require additional health care, as well as other social services in many cases.

Adding to the strain on health care and social services in the future is that obesity rates are expected to rise dramatically. The Office of the State Demographer projects that the Texas adult obesity rate will reach almost 37 percent as soon as 2030. Obesity is associated with a number of chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and certain cancers. Diabetes rates have already been increasing markedly, with particularly alarming increases in younger adults. Health care needs will expand rapidly, straining capacity and resulting in a need for additional resources.

The public school system in the state will also be strained. School enrollment has been growing at a notable pace, with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) reporting that enrollment in Texas public schools increased from 4.4 million in 2004-05 to 5.2 million in 2014-15. Hispanic students account for the largest percentage of total enrollment in Texas public schools (52.0 percent), followed by White (29.0 percent), African American (12.6 percent), Asian (3.9 percent), and multiracial (2.0 percent) students. The percentage of students identified as economically disadvantaged is increasing and now stands at almost 59 percent; the proportion of students receiving bilingual or English as a second language instructional services is also rising. Texas school enrollment has been growing about six times the rate of the United States as a whole, and many school districts are struggling to keep up with the need for new capacity. The combination of rapidly increasing enrollment and its changing makeup, a chronically underfunded system, and rising educational requirements for success is daunting indeed.

Currently, almost 17 percent of Texans were born outside of the United States. Migration to Texas from Latin-American origin persons is declining, while migration of Asian origin persons is increasing. While there is certainly a flow of immigrants to Texas from Mexico and other Latin American nations, there is also a sizable flow of Asian immigrants coming to Texas via California and elsewhere. The state is projected to become more diverse over time.

The Texas population is in the midst of sweeping change. While some of the patterns have been in place for decades, they are becoming more pronounced. There are significant implications for public policy, and the sooner we have resources in place to address future needs, the better.