Houston, Texas Geography

Houston, Texas Geography and Population

Houston is a major city in the United States, located in the state of Texas. The city is the fourth largest in the country with a population of 2,288,000. The Houston metropolitan area is growing rapidly and has 7,207,000 inhabitants (2021). The Greater Houston metropolitan area consists of nine counties and is numerically the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States. The city has an extensive network of motorways. Its nickname is Space City, or road related; Stack City because of the many gigantic nodes.



According to localcollegeexplorer, Houston is located in southeastern Texas, not far from the Gulf of Mexico and the Louisiana border. The city is located 350 kilometers south of Dallas, 300 kilometers east of San Antonio and 500 kilometers west of New Orleans. The metropolitan area is made up of 9 counties with Houston as the main center. It is the 4th largest conurbation in the United States with 6.9 million inhabitants. Houston is numerically the second fastest growing conurbation in the US, growing at a rate of 100,000 to 150,000 inhabitants per year in recent years. Until 2030, the agglomeration will still grow by 2.5 million inhabitants compared to 2010. The growth is caused by rapid immigration from Latin American countries, mainly Mexico and Central America, but increasingly also from East Asia, and the inland migration of residents from the West and Midwest and other parts of the US to Houston. A major driver of the growth is the robust economy and low cost of living. The agglomeration is the size of half of the Netherlands according to the official definitions (limited by counties), but the built-up area is smaller than that.


Because there are few natural obstacles, the agglomeration has been able to grow unhindered. Up to at least 30 kilometers the residential areas have grown in all directions from the center, with suburbs more than 60 kilometers away in some places. The metropolitan area measures 80 kilometers from east to west, and 100 kilometers from north to south, making the metropolitan area one of the largest in the United States. Not far from Houston is the coastal city of Galveston. The landscape is flat, and Houston is built on woodland, prairies, and wetlands. There are bays or coves in the region, so-called bayous, some of which extend as far as Houston itself. Houston’s climate is subtropical, with high humidity and temperatures above 30 degrees for a third of the year.

Population growth

Downtown Houston.

Rounded populations of the 5 major counties of the Houston metropolitan area. The total agglomeration consists of 9 counties, but outside the counties mentioned below, these are mainly rural in character, and the 4 other counties together had 239,000 inhabitants in 2021.

Year Harris Fort Bend Galveston Brazoria Montgomery other* total % growth
1920 187.000 23.000 53.000 21.000 17.000 48.000 349.000
1930 359.000 30.000 64.000 23.000 15.000 55.000 546.000 +56% +197.000
1940 529.000 33.000 81.000 27.000 23.000 60.000 753.000 +38% +207.000
1950 807.000 31.000 113.000 47.000 25.000 61.000 1.084.000 +44% +331.000
1960 1.243.000 41.000 140.000 76.000 27.000 68.000 1.595.000 +47% +511.000
1970 1.742.000 52.000 170.000 108.000 49.000 73.000 2.194.000 +38% +599.000
1980 2.410.000 131.000 196.000 170.000 128.000 103.000 3.138.000 +43% +944.000
1990 2.818.000 225.000 217.000 192.000 182.000 116.000 3.750.000 +20% +612.000
2000 3.401.000 354.000 250.000 242.000 294.000 153.000 4.694.000 +25% +944.000
2010 4.092.000 585.000 291.000 313.000 456.000 182.000 5.919.000 +26% +1.225.000
2020 4.732.000 829.000 351.000 373.000 625.000 228.000 7.138.000 +21% +1.219.000
2021 4.728.000 856.000 355.000 380.000 649.000 239.000 7.207.000 +1% +69.000

*Liberty County, Waller County, Chambers County, Austin County

The table shows that the growth of the suburban area only increased from the 1970s onwards. Harris County still accounts for the vast majority of the metropolitan population. Galveston County was a high-population county early on, but that mainly centered around the city of Galveston, which grew independently of Houston until the 1990s. Only in recent years have they grown together. Particularly in the northeast and northwest of Harris County, there are still large undeveloped areas, and Harris County is likely to continue to grow.

Spatial planning

Houston is the largest American city without ‘zoning’ (zoning), which has meant that the city has a somewhat messy structure, with many business parks in and around residential areas. The lack of zoning has also resulted in the original city of Houston, which is roughly within the Sam Houston Tollway is very messy, with fragmented industrial estates, residential areas and greenery. Some parts are even almost completely undeveloped, while more and more countryside is being built on the outskirts of the city. The newer suburbs generally have a much higher building density than the older neighbourhoods. Densification of the existing area is so fragmented that it is not attractive to build here on a large scale. Houston has only 1,429 inhabitants per square kilometer, which could have been about 50% more with more densification. For example, there are still agricultural areas within the Houston suburban ring. However, large parts of Houston are not significantly different in character from other major American cities that have grown during the same period.

Houston, Texas Geography