“The Significance of Rural Texas in the State’s Economy Despite Urban Dominance, according to Perryman”

The word “Texas” immediately evokes images of vast open spaces, cattle ranches, cotton fields, and other iconic landscapes. Despite this enduring legacy, most of the population and economic activity is concentrated in metropolitan areas. However, rural areas play a significant role in overall growth, producing much of the fuel, food, and fiber that sustains the state.

Texas has 80 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) out of 254 counties, occupying less than 20% of the land area but accounting for about 88% of production, 92% of employment, and 90% of population. While local counties are growing, the pace is not as rapid as the statewide growth.

Over the past 20 years, rural population growth has been 9.4%, while Texas as a whole has grown 38.3%, with rural employment increasing by 18.8%, slower than the overall growth rate of 44.4%. But the growth gap is expected to narrow significantly over the next 20 years, with rural counties projected to grow by 18.1% by 2043, slower than Texas’ 30.1% growth but not as dramatically as recently observed.

In terms of employment, most people work in healthcare, education, retail, food service, government, manufacturing, and construction, with relatively few jobs in agriculture. However, crops and livestock production are vital to the country’s export base and essential to economic prosperity.

Oil and gas extraction are also significant sources of employment, with labor productivity in rural areas higher than in other regions. Renewable energy and outdoor recreational opportunities are also prevalent in rural areas.

While metropolitan areas drive population and employment growth, rural counties continue to expand and support key elements of Texas production and export while also defining much of Texas heritage and identity.

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