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Chicago Skyline

Residents of the city of Houston are feeling especially cocky this summer. Space City’s main newspaper, the Houston Chronicle boldly declared in June, “The question isn’t whether we’ll be the nation’s third-largest city. It’s when.”

According to statistics recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago’s population growth slowed considerably in 2014, while the city of Houston continued a long-running surge in population growth. In 2014, most of Chicago’s biggest neighborhoods lost population overall, including a 34% decline in the south-side neighborhood of Riverdale.

Almost 40% of U.S. citizens never leave the city in which they were born; however, for Americans who do move, a new job is overwhelmingly the most popular reason. And Houston has consistently been ranked as one of the best U.S. cities for young professionals to find work in recent years. According to a Pew survey, 44% of Americans who moved said they did so because of a new job opportunity.

But for Windy City natives proud of their status as America’s third largest city, and the largest in the Midwest, there’s reason for hope. Many demographic experts are urging at least a little skepticism over Houston’s ambitious claims. University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers said that Houston’s chances of overtaking Chicago were merely “probable,” not certain.

If Houston and Chicago both maintain the population growth rates seen so far this decade, then Houston will become the third largest American city in 2030, possibly even sooner.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Illinois and Chicago did have a disproportionate number of Generation X members living within their borders. That’s the generation of Americans that came of age in the John Hughes film era, with its Chicago-obsessed imagery and locales.

According to the Census Bureau figures, Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers nationwide, at 83.1 million and 75.4 million respectively. The nation is also becoming increasingly racially diverse.

Whether the Windy City retains its crown as America’s third largest city remains to be seen.

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