Lots of people moved to Texas in 2004 and 2005, and that's before you count hurricane evacuees.
According to recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, Texas saw an estimated net gain of 51,067 residents in the year ending July 1, 2005 — a 38 percent increase from the previous year for a total of 22.9 million. It was the second straight year that figure has increased and marks the highest net domestic migration for Texas this decade.
Only four other states — Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada and retirement haven Florida — netted more newcomers from other states in 2005, the government said last month. Thirty states gained at the expense of the other 20 and the District of Columbia.
The survey was taken before hurricanes Katrina and Rita, meaning Texas was re-emerging as a magnet for other Americans even before the twin disasters.
"Absolutely, the number of domestic migrants is increasing, and domestic migrants are what demographers term as 'positively selected,' " said Steve Murdock, the state's official demographer who runs the Texas State Data Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Arrivals from other states still comprise a smaller share of population growth than births and immigration, Murdock said, but that share is growing again after seemingly bottoming out in 2003.
Official figures that will count hurricane migration will not be out until next December, but Murdock doubts they will show watershed changes in Texas because the Census Bureau relies on Internal Revenue Service tax returns for its data.
"The problem will be, (Katrina evacuees) won't really be there next year," Murdock said. "Are these people who lost their homes really going to file their income-tax returns?"
In fact, Murdock is skeptical that Katrina will amount to much statistically for Texas, especially by the time the next official census is taken in 2010.
The likelihood many evacuees will return home or move elsewhere, coupled with the state's massive population, blunts their political, social and economic impact, he said.
"The Katrina folks are such a small part," he said. "The highest estimates may have had 250,000 (statewide) at one time. If we end up with 125,000 in the state, and we're projecting a total population of 25 million by 2010, think about that when people start talking about redistricting impacts of Katrina."
Murdock said the storm's impact on Texas population this decade ultimately will be dwarfed by domestic arrivals independent of the hurricane and, of course, continued high levels of immigration, particularly from Latin America.