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Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

economy

The South Texas Region2020 Regional Report

This analysis predates the COVID-19 crisis and the economic impacts that followed. It is offered as an overview of the South Texas regional economy and a resource for comparative purposes.

The 28-county South Texas region covers about 37,800 square miles in southern Texas, stretching along the Mexican border from Del Rio to Brownsville and up the Gulf coast past Rockport to Aransas Pass and San Antonio Bay.

The South Texas region includes four metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs): the Brownsville-Harlingen MSA, comprising Cameron County; the Corpus Christi MSA, which includes Aransas, Nueces and San Patricio counties; the Laredo MSA, comprising Webb County; and the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA, comprising Hidalgo County. Counties in the region not associated with an MSA include Bee, Brooks, Dimmit, Duval, Edwards, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kinney, Kleberg, La Salle, Live Oak, Maverick, McMullen, Real, Refugio, Starr, Uvalde, Val Verde, Willacy, Zapata and Zavala counties.

The South Texas region has both coastal and border characteristics. Its two economic centers are the cities of Laredo in Webb County and Corpus Christi in Nueces County. This report examines regional economic trends including population, household income, jobs and wages and education, as well as economic conditions unique to the South Texas region.

Population

The South Texas region’s estimated total population in 2019 was more than 2.4 million, or 8.4 percent of the state’s total population. This represented an increase of 7.4 percent (about 169,000 people) since the 2010 Census. In 2019, an estimated 35.6 percent of the region’s population was concentrated in Hidalgo County (which includes the city of McAllen).

From 2010 to 2019, the region’s population growth was slower than that of the state. While each county in the region saw a change during this period (Exhibit 1), Hidalgo outpaced all others by growing by more than 12 percent, slightly lower than the state as a whole.

Exhibit 1
South Texas Region Population by County, 2010 and 2019
County 2010 Census Estimate
(as of July 2019)
Change 2010 to 2019 Percent Change
Aransas 23,158 23,510 352 1.5%
Bee 31,861 32,565 704 2.2%
Brooks 7,223 7,093 -130 -1.8%
Cameron 406,220 423,163 16,943 4.2%
Dimmit 9,996 10,124 128 1.3%
Duval 11,782 11,157 -625 -5.3%
Edwards 2,002 1,932 -70 -3.5%
Hidalgo 774,769 868,707 93,938 12.1%
Jim Hogg 5,300 5,200 -100 -1.9%
Jim Wells 40,838 40,482 -356 -0.9%
Kenedy 416 404 -12 -2.9%
Kinney 3,598 3,667 69 1.9%
Kleberg 32,061 30,680 -1,381 -4.3%
La Salle 6,886 7,520 634 9.2%
Live Oak 11,531 12,207 676 5.9%
Maverick 54,258 58,722 4,464 8.2%
McMullen 707 743 36 5.1%
Nueces 340,223 362,294 22,071 6.5%
Real 3,309 3,452 143 4.3%
Refugio 7,383 6,948 -435 -5.9%
San Patricio 64,804 66,730 1,926 3.0%
Starr 60,968 64,633 3,665 6.0%
Uvalde 26,405 26,741 336 1.3%
Val Verde 48,879 49,025 146 0.3%
Webb 250,304 276,652 26,348 10.5%
Willacy 22,134 21,358 -776 -3.5%
Zapata 14,018 14,179 161 1.1%
Zavala 11,677 11,840 163 1.4%
Laredo MSA 250,304 276,652 26,348 10.5%
Corpus Christi MSA 404,027 429,024 23,997 5.9%
South Texas Region Total 2,272,710 2,441,728 169,018 7.4%
Texas Total 25,145,561 28,995,881 3,850,320 15.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Population Composition

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, most of the South Texas region’s counties have significantly lower median ages than the state. In 2018, 11 of the region’s 28 counties had median ages significantly lower than the state’s median age of 34.2 years; Hidalgo (28.8 years), Kleberg (28 years), Maverick (29.7 years), Starr (28.7 years), Webb (28.3 years) and Zapata (29.3 years) counties were among the state’s youngest. The region also had two counties with the state’s oldest median populations: Aransas County (50.7 years) and Real County (55.5 years). The Corpus Christi MSA had a median age on par with that of the state.  The Laredo MSA had a median age significantly younger than that of the state.

Almost 84 percent of the South Texas region’s total population was Hispanic, more than double the state’s Hispanic share (Exhibit 2). The region had the state’s highest concentration of Hispanics and lowest concentration of black (non Hispanic) residents, at slightly more than 1 percent.

Household Income

In 2018, the South Texas region’s median household income was $42,246, significantly lower than that of the state. Texas’ household income is generally distributed among five income levels. Of more than 9 million Texas households, 21 percent had incomes less than $25,000 in 2018, while 17 percent had incomes greater than $125,000. In every region in the state, nearly 18 percent of households had average incomes between $50,000 and $75,000. Nearly 58 percent of the region’s households had incomes below $50,000 and 33 percent had incomes below $25,000 (Exhibit 3). About 9.3 percent of South Texas households had incomes above $125,000.

Exhibit 2
South Texas Region Population by Race and Ethnicity, 2018
Ethnicity South Texas Region State Total
Hispanic 83.8% 38.6%
Black (not Hispanic) 1.1% 11.6%
White (not Hispanic) 13.7% 43.4%
Other 1.4% 6.3%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Exhibit 3
South Texas Region and Texas Household Income Percentile, 2018
Income Level South Texas Region State Total
less than $25,000 33.0% 21.1%
$25,000 to $50,000 24.8% 23.0%
$50,000 to $75,000 16.5% 17.9%
$75,000 to $125,000 16.4% 20.6%
more than $125,000 9.3% 17.4%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Regional Industries

In 2019, the South Texas region accounted for about 6.7 percent of the state’s total employment. Exhibit 4 lists the industries with the greatest regional employment concentrations compared to the national average, as measured by location quotient (LQ). LQ represents an industry’s proportionate concentration in the region; an LQ greater than 1.0 means that industry employment is more concentrated in the region than nationally. A high LQ can identify industries that have a competitive advantage in the region, such as the ability to produce products more efficiently and of a higher quality.

Based on location quotients, the South Texas region is a leader in leather and allied product manufacturing, support activities for mining and petroleum and coal products manufacturing.

Exhibit 4
Top 10 South Texas Region Industries, 2019
Occupation LQ Number Employed Average Annual Wages
Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing 7.75 1,242 $25,524
Support Activities for Mining 7.26 14,673 $89,250
Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing 4.40 2,891 $131,443
Fishing, Hunting and Trapping 3.19 162 $28,450
Pipeline Transportation 2.98 890 $113,080
Justice, Public Order and Safety Activities 2.65 29,654 $76,067
Support Activities for Transportation 2.64 12,581 $42,843
Ambulatory Health Care Services 2.35 106,792 $28,419
Oil and Gas Extraction 2.25 1,903 $107,376
Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions 2.02 2,919 $23,421
Total - All Industries 0.97 838,044 $39,347

Data are as of Q4 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.
Source: JobsEQ


U.S. Military Installation Impact

Texas has 14 U.S. military installations within its borders. In 2019, these bases directly employed more than 226,000 and supported nearly 634,000 jobs in all. In all, military installations in Texas contributed an estimated $75.3 billion annually to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP). Four military installations within the South Texas region, which includes Corpus Christi Army Depot, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Naval Air Station Kingsville and Laughlin Air Force Base, had a significant positive impact on the Texas economy, supporting an estimated 41,000 jobs and contributing about $4.6 billion to the state’s GDP in 2019 (Exhibit 5).

Exhibit 5
U.S. Military Impact on the South Texas Region Estimated 2019
Region Total Jobs Supported Contribution to State GDP
South Texas 41,044 $4.6 billion
State of Texas 633,892 $75.3 billion

Sources: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Military Preparedness Commission and REMI

Learn more about the impact of U.S. military installations on the state’s economy.


Jobs and Wages

The region’s employment rose by more than 14 percent from 2009 to 2019, below the growth in the state. Employment in the Laredo MSA rose by nearly 20 percent in the same period, while the Corpus Christi MSA job count rose by about 6 percent (Exhibit 6). In 2019, nearly 22 percent of the region’s total jobs were in the Corpus Christi MSA.

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Exhibit 6
South Texas Region Employment Trends, 2019
Area Number of Jobs (2019) Actual Change (2009 to 2019) Percent Change (2009 to 2019)
Laredo MSA 103,262 17,037 19.8%
Corpus Christi MSA 181,954 10,672 6.2%
South Texas Region 834,697 106,257 14.6%
Texas 12,531,100 2,284,407 22.3%
United States 147,886,638 17,768,373 13.7%

Note: Figures include private- and public-sector employees with the exception of active-duty military personnel, railroad employees, religious institution employees and the self-employed.

Sources: JobsEQ and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Significant Regional Occupations

The South Texas region’s most significant occupations are shown in Exhibits 7 and 8, first by location quotient and second by numeric growth during the last five years.

Exhibit 7
Top Occupations in the South Texas Region by Location Quotient, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Extraction Workers 6,524 $43,200 4.92 6.2% -4,512
Fishing and Hunting Workers 351 15,100 2.75 10.2 0
Other Personal Care and Service Workers 59,215 20,400 2.31 7.1 19,575
Nursing, Psychiatric and Home Health Aides 29,698 21,300 2.06 5.6 -3,271
Preschool, Primary, Secondary and Special Education School Teachers 44,409 55,500 1.84 3.7 1,547

Note: Data are as of Q4 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.

Source: JobsEQ


Exhibit 8
Top Occupations in the South Texas Region by Numeric Growth, 2014 to 2019
Occupation Number Employed Average Annual Wages LQ Unemployment Rate Five-Year Employment Change
Other Personal Care and Service Workers 59,215 $20,400 2.31 7.1% 19,575
Food and Beverage Serving Workers 50,703 20,100 1.13 8.4 5,503
Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners 38,402 95,500 1.15 1.5 4,420
Business Operations Specialists 19,982 62,900 0.64 4.1 1,994
Health Technologists and Technicians 23,170 43,700 1.25 3.0 1,933

Note: Data are as of Q4 2019 except wage data, which are for covered employment in 2018.
Source: JobsEQ


Education

A strong educational foundation provides a cornerstone for growth and competitiveness in the global economy, offering opportunities for workplace advancement and business expansion.

Wages by Educational Attainment

Post-secondary education delivers a good return on investments of time and tuition. In 2018, South Texas region workers with some college or associate degrees and with stable jobs — defined as those employed with the same firm throughout a calendar quarter — earned an average of $4,082 more annually than those with a high school degree, while those with at least a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $17,798 more (Exhibit 9).

Exhibit 9
Average Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment, South Texas Region and Texas, 2018
Educational Attainment Number Employed, Region Percent of Region Average Annual Earnings, Region Number Employed, Texas Percent of Texas Average Annual Earnings, Texas
Less than High School 208,634 25.6% $36,756 2,065,483 17.1% $42,808
High School or Equivalent, No College 190,717 23.4% 42,462 2,765,759 22.9% 52,035
Some College or Associate Degree 200,785 24.6% 46,544 3,245,675 26.9% 60,428
Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Degree 103,605 12.7% 60,260 2,454,975 20.3% 95,716
Educational Attainment Unavailable 112,033 13.7% 22,869 1,544,282 12.8% 22,087
Total 815,773 $42,662 12,076,174 $58,787

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and JobsEQ


Between the 2009-10 and the 2017-18 school years, the region’s high school graduation rate moved from underperforming to outperforming the state. During the 2017-18 school year, 90.9 percent of the South Texas region’s class of public high school senior students graduated, slightly higher than the state’s rate of 90 percent (Exhibit 10).

Exhibit 10
South Texas Region Public High School Graduation Rates, 2009-10 to 2017-18 School Year
Region2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
South Texas 82.1% 83.8% 86.0% 86.8% 86.8% 87.9% 89.1% 90.2% 90.9%
Texas 84.3% 85.9% 87.7% 88.0% 88.3% 89.0% 89.1% 89.7% 90.0%

Sources: Texas Education Agency


Many high school graduates enroll in postsecondary programs, which offer greater job prospects and the possibility of higher wages. Residents of the South Texas region enjoy a variety of options for higher educational achievement (Exhibit 11).

Exhibit 11 South Texas Region Institutions of Higher Education

Universities

  • Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College
  • Texas A&M International University
  • Texas A&M University at Galveston
  • Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Texas A&M University-Kingsville
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Health Science Schools

  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley - Medical School

Junior and Community Colleges

  • Coastal Bend College
  • Del Mar College
  • Laredo College
  • South Texas College
  • Southwest Texas Junior College
  • Texas Southmost College
  • Texas State Technical College-Harlingen

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


The South Texas region’s community college districts provided technical and academic coursework for more than 72,000 students in the 2017-18 school year (Exhibit 12).

Exhibit 12
South Texas Region Community College Overview, 2017-18 School Year
Community College District Enrollment Awards Average Tuition and Fees Academic Share of Students Enrolled Technical Share of Students Enrolled Enrolled or Employed, Academic* Enrolled or Employed, Technical*
Coastal Bend College 4,633 887 $2,646 61.1% 38.9% 86.8% 80.2%
Del Mar College 11,867 2,025 $3,170 69.3% 30.7% 88.3% 87.5%
Laredo Community College 10,145 2,040 $4,080 82.5% 17.5% 92.4% 97.9%
South Texas College 31,640 6,508 $3,800 73.0% 27.0% 91.0% 87.9%
Southwest Texas Junior College 6,894 1,001 $2,978 83.6% 16.4% 93.1% 88.8%
Texas Southmost College 7,130 724 $3,900 91.0% 9.0% 90.4% 82.6%

*The percentage of academic or technical graduates employed in the fourth quarter of the calendar year after graduation and/or enrolled in a Texas two- or four-year institution in the following fall after graduation, as specified.

Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


The region’s community colleges awarded about 5,600 certificates and associate degrees in health professions in the 2017-18 school year; the next most common awards were for general studies and liberal arts and precision production (Exhibit 13).

Exhibit 13
Top 10 Certificates and Degree Awards in the South Texas Region’s Community Colleges, 2017-18 School Year
Certificates and Degrees Number Awarded
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences 5,599
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities 3,408
Precision Production 1,308
Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services 1,290
Personal and Culinary Services 1,041
Security and Protective Services 897
Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services 890
Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians 789
Engineering Technologies/Technicians 609
Education 502

Source: JobsEQ


Regional Economy

The relative health of the South Texas region’s economy can be measured by its sales tax revenue and comparison with other states on education, population, per capita income and unemployment rate. Together, these data are good indicators of the region’s economic dynamics and competitiveness.

Sales Tax Revenue

Sales taxes are inherently volatile in the short term but when reviewed over time can provide a useful indication of the state’s economic condition.

Receipts subject to state sales tax directly attributed to the South Texas region trended upward in the past decade. Taxable sales in the region rose steadily following the 2009 recession, up to a highpoint in 2014. While taxable sales then fell off briefly, 2019 saw a new high (Exhibit 14). In 2019, taxable sales directly attributable to businesses in the South Texas region exceeded $22.7 billion, about 4.1 percent of the state’s total taxable sales. The Laredo MSA directly accounted for $2.6 billion of this total, while the Corpus Christi MSA accounted for $6.1 billion.

Exhibit 14
South Texas Region, Taxable Sales, 2007-2019
Year Revenue South Texas Region
2007 16.9 billion dollars
2008 17.7 billion dollars
2009 15.8 billion dollars
2010 16.7 billion dollars
2011 18.7 billion dollars
2012 20.3 billion dollars
2013 21.2 billion dollars
2014 22.0 billion dollars
2015 21.3 billion dollars
2016 20.1 billion dollars
2017 20.4 billion dollars
2018 22.0 billion dollars
2019 22.7 billion dollars

Note: Numbers shown are for reported revenue subject to sales tax and directly attributed to the region.
Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts


In 1997, the U.S., Canada and Mexico jointly released the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which classifies all business enterprises for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing economic statistics. A review of two-digit NAICS codes allows for a broad analysis of industry sectors.

In 2019, the South Texas region’s retail trade and food services sector contributed most to taxable sales, accounting for more than 56.5 percent of the region’s taxable sales. Other industries of note were the accommodation and wholesale trade sectors, with a combined 23.2 percent of the region’s taxable sales.

South Texas Region vs. the U.S.

Exhibit 15 illustrates how the South Texas region compares to other states and the nation on a number of demographic and economic measures. If it were a state, the region would be the 38th largest in terms of land area (slightly larger than Indiana) and have the 36th largest population.

Exhibit 15
South Texas Region Compared to the U.S.
Measure South Texas Region Rank if Region
were a State
Texas State Rank U.S.
Square Miles 37,820 38 268,597 2 3,531,905
Population, 2019 2,441,728 36 28,995,881 2 328,239,523
Population with at Least a High School Diploma, 2018 69.4% 51 83.2% 49 87.7%
Population with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 2018 17.8% 51 29.3% 28 31.5%
Population Under 18 Years, 2018 29.9% 1 25.8% 2 22.4%
Population 65 Years and Above, 2018 12.7% 48 12.6% 48 16.0%
Population Percent Change, 2010 to 2019 7.4% 18 15.3% 2 6.3%
Per Capita Income, 2018 $31,965 51 $50,355 26 $54,446
Unemployment Rate, 2019 5.3% 49 3.5% 27 3.7%

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.


South Texas Regional Summary

The South Texas region and its 28 counties have many unique economic conditions and challenges. Webb County, with the city of Laredo, and Nueces County, with the city of Corpus Christi, are the region’s economic centers. The region’s median age was significantly lower than that the state’s in 2018, and six of its counties were among the state’s “youngest.” If this region were a state, it would have the nation’s youngest population.

While the region has the state’s largest concentration of Hispanics, it is also the least diverse. Its household income was significantly lower than the state’s in 2018, with 58 percent of household incomes less than $50,000. Since 2010, the high school graduation rate in the region has mirrored the state’s rate.

The region has a high concentration of public health, safety and education industries as well as high LQ in certain petroleum-related industries; these industries differentiate the South Texas region from others.


Questions?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material on this page, please contact the Comptroller’s Data Analysis and Transparency Division.

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