We all know which cities in the United States have the most residents: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
But which ones are growing the fastest?
A new study by Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research found that all the action, population-wise, is far below the Mason-Dixon line.
Of the 366 metropolitan areas in the U.S., it was Houston -- the nation's fourth largest city and Rice's hometown -- that gained the most people.
Space City -- well, its metro area, technically -- gained an astounding 1.2 million people between 2000 and 2010, according to census figures, averaging 123,000 people each year.
That's right: more people moved to Houston in the last decade than moved to New York and Chicago combined.
Following Houston was state sibling Dallas-Fort Worth, whose metropolitan area also grew by 1.2 million people, just 21,000 shy of Houston's nation-leading total. Unsurprisingly, Austin and San Antonio also posted strong figures.
Don't mess with Texas, indeed.
The trend is a subset of a larger one showing continued U.S. population growth in the South and Southwest. In fact, of the 15 metro areas that added the most people, only New York (No. 7) and Seattle (No. 15) weren't in those regions.
"A significant portion of the population growth in these Southern and Southwestern metropolitan areas is not due to the relocation of Americans from colder climates but to the influx of immigrants moving directly into these Southern and Southwestern metropolitan areas," institute co-director Michael Emerson said in a statement. "This is the secret of Houston's phenomenal growth over the past decade."
Proximity to Latin America, favorable business policy and a low cost of living don't hurt, either. The only other metro area to pass the 1 million mark? Atlanta, the nation's ninth largest metro.
On the flip side, 42 of the nation's metropolitan areas lost population.
Here's a look at the 25 U.S. metro areas with the most population growth in the last 10 years:
- Houston (+1,231,393)
- Dallas-Fort Worth (+1,210,229)
- Atlanta (+1,020,879)
- Riverside, Calif. (+970,030)
- Phoenix (+941,011)
- Washington, D.C. (+785,987)
- Las Vegas (+575,504)
- New York (+574,107)
- Miami (+557,071)
- Orlando, Fla. (+489,850)
- Austin, Texas (+466,526)
- Los Angeles (+463,210)
- San Antonio (+430,805)
- Charlotte, N.C. (+427,590)
- Seattle (+395,931)
- Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla. (+387,246)
- Denver (+364,242)
- Chicago (+362,789)
- Sacramento, Calif. (+352,270)
- Raleigh/Cary, N.C. (+333,419)
- Minneapolis/St. Paul (+311,027)
- Portland, Ore. (+298,128)
- San Diego (+281,480)
- Philadelphia (+278,196)
- Nashville, Tenn. (+278,145)
Houston's growth is so formidable that in 2011, it will likely displace Philadelphia as the fifth-largest metro area.
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Photo: Lens Adventurer/Flickr