San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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January 12th, 2011
Survey says: Hays County young, growing fast


Most locals intuitively know that Hays County is a young, fast-growing and increasingly diverse community. Now, a new set of data released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau gives hard numbers to back up those hunches.

Following the Census Bureau’s December issuance of the five-year American Community Survey, the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) has released its own analysis of data showing trends across the 10 counties of Central Texas, including Hays County.

All of Central Texas has experienced explosive 33 percent growth in the last decade, and Hays County’s population is building at an even more rapid pace of 57 percent. The county now numbers more than 155,000 residents, up from about 56,000 in 2000. Texas is growing at a rate of 18 percent, while the nation as a whole recorded nine percent growth in the last decade.

In the CAPCOG region, only Williamson County, which borders Austin to the north, has seen faster growth, at a rate of 61 percent.  Like Hays, Williamson is a formerly rural outpost whose location along the interstate corridor made it a ripe target for suburban expansion.

That commuter status of both counties is illustrated in the high percent of residents who drive alone to work, representing 78 percent of Hays County residents and 79 percent of Williamson County residents, the highest in the region.

That growth is taking the form of suburban subdivisions. More than 66 percent of housing structures in Hays County are single-family, a rise of more than nine percent in the last decade, representing the largest increase in the region. At the same time, the proportion of mobile homes declined from 16 percent to less than 10 percent in the last decade. Most of the county’s multi-family units house college students in San Marcos. While Buda and Kyle have seen a smattering of apartment developments, new construction has overwhelmingly been in the form of single family homes.

With a median age of 28.4, Hays County is the youngest in the CAPCOG region, and the only county to experience a decline in the median age. That’s largely because one out of five Hays County residents are students at Texas State University in San Marcos, with an average age of 21 years old.

With a median age of 30.1, Kyle residents are younger than the CAPGOC region’s median age of 32, while Buda residents, at 33, are slightly older.

However, the county, like the nation as a whole, can expect to get a little more gray in coming years. Though the median age declined, the proportion of Hays County residents 45 years and older actually increased in the last decade.

In addition to getting younger, Hays County is also growing more racially diverse. Though Asian and African American populations remain small – just 1.2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively – Hispanics now represent more than one-third of all Hays County residents. Less than 60 percent of Hays residents report their ethnicity as white, a decrease of five percent in the last decade.

Hays County remains slightly less diverse than the region as a whole, which has 57.4 percent Anglo residents. In the ten-county region, only Caldwell County is “majority-minority,” with white non-Hispanics making up 46 percent of the population.
Hays County is more educated than the region as a whole, but slightly less wealthy. Education levels remained roughly constant over the last decade, with 87 percent of residents graduating from high school, 32 percent earning a college diploma and 10 percent achieving a graduate or professional degree.

Like many regions in a recession era, Hays County’s median household income suffered a 10-percent decline in the last decade, dropping nearly $5,500 to $52,409. Nationwide, the median income declined five percent. In the CAPCOG region, income dropped nine percent from $63,000 to $57,000. Unemployment in Hays County remains relatively low, at 6.6 percent.

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