Demographer for the City of Austin

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Ryan Robinson has served as the city demographer for the City of Austin since 1995, but he does not just study what is going on within Austin city limits. He also tracks, maps and analyzes population data within the Austin Metropolitan Statistical area, composed of Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

"It's the whole enchilada," he said. "It's San Marcos to Georgetown."

The data, primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau, is then used to help determine where the city and county governments need to be allocating their resources, such as hiring more police officers and firefighters or purchasing garbage trucks. In addition, Robinson said businesses are increasingly using demographic information to help focus their marketing efforts.

By how much is the Austin metro population growing?

In April, the Census Bureau reported the Austin MSA was the second-fastest growing metropolitan area in the country. But when you look at that list, the fastest-growing metropolitan area was a relatively small urban area—250,000 people—so if you create a subset of large metropolitan areas with at least 1 million persons in it, the Austin MSA, with about 1.8 million people, climbs to the very top of the list.

To what do you attribute this growth?

The reason for this is job creation and an enviable quality of life, meaning access to recreation, culture, good public schools and reasonably priced housing. Austin's culture directly enriches our quality of life.

Was there anything else the new data revealed?

What that report also showed was that while so many urban areas around the country continue to stagnate, Austin's economy and population growth has actually accelerated. The annualized growth rate between April 2010 and July 2011, was 3.9 percent, a full percentage point faster than the second-fastest growing large MSA, Raleigh, N.C. During that 15-month period, we received 70,000 new residents. Of that, roughly 35 percent of that gain came from infants being born. The remainder came from people moving into the Austin MSA from somewhere else.

Where is the population growth primarily taking place?

Interestingly, of the 70,000 net population increase that occurred in the metropolitan area, 40,000 of it was in Travis County. People may initially move to the City of Austin because we have so much more rental housing stock, and while some stay, others may ultimately buy a home in Williamson or Hays counties.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for the area going forward?

I think the three biggest challenges are social inequity, water availability and transportation. As a demographer, I focus on the social inequity. To that point, I think our great challenge is to take this very large young population that is now overwhelmingly Latino and try to reverse the trend of an increasing societal gap.