Houston Population Boom Made Harvey’s Damage Much Worse

When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston last week, it hit a city that is much bigger and more diverse than it was in 2000. Those changes made the storm’s impacts bigger and more complicated.

Growing immigrant populations and sprawling construction have remade the region and will likely make rebuilding efforts, which were never going to be easy, even more difficult.

Since 2000, Houston and surrounding Harris County have undergone a population explosion. Harris County has climbed from 3.4 million people to 4.6 million in 2016 — a 35 percent increase. As a point of comparison, the population of the United States as a whole has grown by about 15 percent since 2000.

One notable piece of that growth is the refugee population that fled New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. About 40,000 of those evacuees stayed in Houston after that disaster.

But all that growth also altered the demographic composition of the city.

Harris has long been diverse, but since 2000 the Hispanic population rose from 33 percent of the total to 42 percent and the Asian population climbed from 5 percent to about 7 percent in 2016. In the same period, its white, non-Hispanic population has declined from about 42 percent of the total to just 30 percent in 2016.

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