Houston Vs Dallas: Which Texas City Is Bigger?

Houston and Dallas are two of the largest and most prominent cities in Texas, leading many to wonder – which city is actually bigger? At first glance, the answer may seem straightforward based on population size. But taking a deeper look at metropolitan area populations, geographic size, economic factors and more provides a more nuanced comparison between these two Lone Star State cities.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Based solely on population within the city limits, Houston is bigger. But looking at metropolitan statistical areas, Dallas has a slightly larger population. In terms of physical size, Houston covers more total land area. Economically, DFW generates a higher GDP but Houston’s economy centered on port and energy industries also wields significant influence.

In this comprehensive 3000 word guide, we will compare Houston and Dallas across a number of categories, including population and growth trends, physical geographic size, economic power and industry, global standing, development and sprawl, transportation and infrastructure, diversity, culture and more. Whether you’re considering a move between these two cities or just curious to learn how they stack up, read on for an in-depth side-by-side comparison.

Population and Growth

When comparing the cities of Houston and Dallas, one of the key factors to consider is their population and growth. Both cities have experienced significant growth over the years, but let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

City Proper Populations

As of the most recent data, Houston has a city proper population of approximately 2.3 million people, making it the largest city in Texas. On the other hand, Dallas has a city proper population of around 1.3 million people.

While Houston has a larger population in terms of the city proper, it’s important to note that both cities are highly populated and offer a wide range of opportunities for residents.

Metro Area Populations

When considering the metro area populations, Houston and Dallas both have thriving metropolitan areas that extend beyond their city limits. Houston’s metropolitan area, known as the Greater Houston Area, has a population of over 7 million people.

Dallas, on the other hand, has a metropolitan area population of over 7.5 million people. Both cities have a significant number of people living in their surrounding suburbs and neighboring towns, contributing to the overall growth and development of the region.

Population Growth Trends

Over the years, both Houston and Dallas have experienced steady population growth. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Houston has consistently ranked among the fastest-growing cities in the United States.

This growth can be attributed to various factors, including job opportunities, affordable housing, and a diverse and vibrant culture. Similarly, Dallas has also seen significant growth, particularly in industries such as technology, healthcare, and finance.

It’s worth noting that the population growth trends may vary from year to year, and it’s important to consider the most up-to-date data for a comprehensive comparison. To gather more detailed information about population statistics and growth trends, you can visit the official websites of the U.S.

Census Bureau

and the City of Houston or City of Dallas.

Physical Size

Total Area

When comparing the physical size of Houston and Dallas, it is important to consider their total area. Houston, known as the “Space City,” is the largest city in Texas and covers approximately 669 square miles.

On the other hand, Dallas, often referred to as the “Big D,” has a total area of around 385 square miles. This makes Houston significantly larger in terms of land area.

Urban Sprawl and Development

Both Houston and Dallas have experienced significant urban sprawl and development over the years. Houston, with its vast oil industry and booming economy, has expanded rapidly in all directions. The city continues to attract businesses and residents, resulting in a sprawling metropolitan area.

Dallas, on the other hand, has also seen considerable growth and development, particularly in its downtown area. However, the expansion of Dallas has been more concentrated and planned compared to Houston’s more organic growth.

City Shapes and Geography

The shapes and geography of Houston and Dallas also differ. Houston is known for its flat topography and sprawling suburbs. The city is crisscrossed by numerous bayous and waterways, which contribute to its unique geography.

Dallas, on the other hand, has a slightly more varied topography, with gentle rolling hills and a more compact city center. The Trinity River runs through Dallas, providing a scenic element to the city’s landscape.

Economy and Industry

GDP and Major Industries

Houston and Dallas are both major economic powerhouses in Texas, each contributing significantly to the state’s overall GDP. As of 2020, Houston had a GDP of $503.1 billion, making it the fourth-largest city economy in the United States.

Dallas, on the other hand, had a slightly lower GDP of $478.2 billion, ranking it fifth in the country.

When it comes to major industries, both cities have their strengths. Houston is known for its thriving energy sector, with numerous oil and gas companies headquartered in the city. The presence of the Houston Ship Channel, one of the busiest ports in the country, also contributes to the city’s strong economy.

Dallas, on the other hand, has a more diversified economy, with a focus on finance, technology, telecommunications, and defense. It is home to several major corporations, including AT&T and Southwest Airlines.

Jobs and Unemployment

Both Houston and Dallas offer ample job opportunities, attracting professionals from various fields. As of 2021, Houston had an unemployment rate of 6.2%, while Dallas had a slightly lower rate of 5.8%.

This indicates that both cities have relatively low unemployment rates compared to the national average.

Houston’s energy industry plays a significant role in job creation, providing employment opportunities in oil and gas exploration, refining, and support services. Dallas, on the other hand, benefits from its strong presence in the finance and technology sectors, offering job opportunities in banking, software development, and telecommunications.

Global Standing and Influence

Both Houston and Dallas have a global presence and influence, albeit in different ways. Houston’s status as an energy hub gives it international recognition and attracts business and investment from around the world.

The city’s energy companies have a significant impact on global oil and gas markets, and it serves as a gateway to Latin America and other parts of the world.

Dallas, on the other hand, is renowned for its corporate headquarters and its role in the finance and technology sectors. The city’s strong business community and vibrant startup culture contribute to its global influence.

Dallas-based companies have a global reach and often have a significant impact on their respective industries.

Transportation and Infrastructure

When comparing the transportation and infrastructure of Houston and Dallas, both cities have developed extensive networks to cater to their large populations. Whether it’s air travel, public transportation, or roadways, both cities have made significant investments to ensure efficient and convenient transportation options for residents and visitors alike.


Both Houston and Dallas boast major international airports that serve as important transportation hubs. Houston is home to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), which is one of the busiest airports in the United States.

With multiple terminals and a wide range of airlines, IAH offers a plethora of domestic and international flight options. Dallas, on the other hand, is home to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), which is one of the largest airports in the world.

With its extensive network of airlines and destinations, DFW serves as a major gateway to the United States.

Public Transportation

When it comes to public transportation, Houston and Dallas have implemented different systems to cater to their residents’ needs. Houston has a comprehensive bus network operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO).

Additionally, the city has a light rail system, known as METRORail, which connects various neighborhoods and downtown Houston. Dallas, on the other hand, has Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), which operates both bus and light rail services.

The DART system connects different parts of the city and provides options for commuters and residents to navigate the urban landscape.

Highways and Roads

Both Houston and Dallas have well-developed highway systems that facilitate easy travel within and outside the cities. Houston is known for its extensive freeway network, including major routes such as Interstate 10, Interstate 45, and Interstate 610.

These highways connect different parts of the city and provide convenient access to neighboring regions. Dallas, too, has a robust highway system, with major routes like Interstate 35, Interstate 30, and the LBJ Freeway (Interstate 635).

These highways help residents and visitors navigate the city and reach their destinations efficiently.

It’s worth noting that both Houston and Dallas have ongoing infrastructure projects aimed at improving transportation. These projects include the expansion of highways, the addition of new light rail lines, and improvements to airport facilities.

As a result, both cities are continually striving to enhance their transportation networks to meet the demands of their growing populations.

Diversity and Culture

Both Houston and Dallas are known for their rich diversity and vibrant cultures. These cities attract people from all walks of life, making them melting pots of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Racial and Ethnic Makeup

Houston has a diverse racial and ethnic makeup. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city is home to a large Hispanic population, making up over 40% of the total population. Additionally, Houston has a significant African American population, accounting for around 22% of the city’s residents.

The Asian population in Houston is also substantial, with approximately 7% of the population being of Asian descent. This diversity adds to the cultural fabric of the city and contributes to its vibrant atmosphere.

Dallas, on the other hand, also boasts a diverse racial and ethnic makeup. While the city has a slightly smaller Hispanic population compared to Houston, it is still significant, making up around 30% of the total population.

The African American population in Dallas is similar to Houston, accounting for approximately 23% of the residents. The Asian population in Dallas is also noteworthy, with around 5% of the population being of Asian descent.

These diverse communities contribute to the cultural richness of Dallas and add to its unique identity.

Foreign Born Population

Both Houston and Dallas have a significant foreign-born population, further enhancing their cultural diversity. In Houston, around 25% of the population is foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This means that a quarter of the city’s residents were born outside of the United States, bringing with them their languages, traditions, and customs.

Dallas also has a substantial foreign-born population, with around 20% of its residents being born outside of the country. This diverse mix of cultures and backgrounds contributes to the cosmopolitan nature of both cities.

Arts and Culture Scene

Both Houston and Dallas have thriving arts and culture scenes that cater to a wide range of interests. Houston is home to a vibrant theater district, with numerous performing arts venues showcasing everything from Broadway shows to local productions.

The city also boasts world-class museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Menil Collection, which house impressive collections of art from various periods and cultures.

Dallas, too, has a flourishing arts and culture scene. The city is known for its Dallas Arts District, which is the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation. It is home to several museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

These institutions offer a diverse range of exhibits and programs that cater to art enthusiasts of all ages.

Housing and Development

When comparing the cities of Houston and Dallas, one important factor to consider is the housing and development in each city. Both cities have experienced significant growth in recent years, but there are some key differences to take note of.

Housing Market Trends

The housing market in Houston is known for its affordability and variety. The city offers a wide range of housing options, from single-family homes to apartments and condos. According to The Houston Chronicle, Houston’s housing market remains a great value, with a median home price that is lower than the national average.

The city’s diverse neighborhoods cater to different lifestyles and budgets, making it an attractive option for homebuyers.

Dallas, on the other hand, has a slightly higher cost of living when it comes to housing. According to The Dallas Morning News, the median home price in the Dallas area has been steadily rising over the past few years.

Despite this, Dallas still offers a range of housing options, with neighborhoods that cater to different preferences and budgets.

Cost of Living

When it comes to the overall cost of living, both Houston and Dallas offer affordable options compared to other major cities in the United States. However, Houston tends to have a slightly lower cost of living compared to Dallas.

This is reflected not only in the housing market but also in other aspects such as transportation, groceries, and healthcare.

According to Expatistan, a website that compares the cost of living in different cities, the overall cost of living in Houston is about 7% lower than in Dallas. This can make a significant difference for individuals and families looking to relocate or settle down in either city.

Office Space and Development

Both Houston and Dallas have thriving business sectors, attracting companies from various industries. As a result, office space and development are areas of focus for both cities.

Houston, being the energy capital of the world, has a strong presence of energy companies and related industries. The city’s downtown area is known for its impressive skyline, with numerous high-rise buildings housing corporate offices.

According to the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston has a diverse economy that includes not only energy but also healthcare, aerospace, and manufacturing. This diversity has contributed to the ongoing development of office spaces and commercial properties in the city.

Dallas, on the other hand, is known for its vibrant business community and entrepreneurial spirit. The city has a mix of modern office spaces and historic buildings that have been repurposed for commercial use.

According to Dallas City Hall, the city has seen a surge in new office construction in recent years, with a focus on sustainable and innovative design.


K-12 Schools

Both Houston and Dallas have a strong focus on education, providing a wide range of K-12 schools for their residents. Houston is home to the Houston Independent School District (HISD), which is the largest public school system in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States.

HISD serves over 200,000 students across its numerous elementary, middle, and high schools. The district offers a diverse range of educational programs and extracurricular activities to cater to the needs and interests of its students.

Dallas, on the other hand, is served by the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), which is the second-largest school district in Texas. DISD consists of over 220 schools, including specialized magnet schools that focus on specific areas such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), performing arts, and international studies.

The district is committed to providing quality education to its diverse student population.

Both cities also have a number of private schools that offer alternative educational options, allowing parents to choose the best fit for their children’s needs. These private schools often provide smaller class sizes and specialized programs to cater to individual learning styles.

Higher Education Options

When it comes to higher education, both Houston and Dallas boast a wide range of options for students looking to pursue a college degree. Houston is home to several prestigious universities, including the University of Houston, Rice University, and Texas Southern University.

These institutions offer a diverse range of academic programs and research opportunities, attracting students from around the country and the world.

Dallas is equally renowned for its higher education institutions. The city is home to Southern Methodist University (SMU), a private research university consistently ranked among the top universities in Texas.

Additionally, the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) is known for its strong programs in science, engineering, and business. Both SMU and UTD offer a vibrant campus life and a multitude of academic and extracurricular opportunities for students.

It’s worth noting that both cities also have community colleges and vocational schools that provide affordable options for students seeking technical and career-oriented programs. These institutions play a crucial role in preparing students for the workforce and meeting the needs of the local job market.

Overall, both Houston and Dallas offer a strong educational foundation, with a wide range of K-12 schools and higher education institutions to choose from. Whether it’s public or private schools, or prestigious universities, students in both cities have access to quality education and a wealth of opportunities to pursue their academic goals.

Sports and Entertainment

Professional Sports Teams

Houston and Dallas are both home to a variety of professional sports teams, providing residents and visitors with plenty of opportunities to catch a game. In Houston, sports enthusiasts can cheer for the Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Astros (MLB), and Houston Dynamo (MLS).

Meanwhile, Dallas boasts the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Dallas Mavericks (NBA), Texas Rangers (MLB), and FC Dallas (MLS). Both cities have a strong sports culture, with passionate fans who support their teams through thick and thin.

Music and Entertainment Venues

When it comes to music and entertainment, Houston and Dallas also offer a vibrant scene. Houston is known for its diverse music genres, with a strong focus on hip-hop, country, and Latin music. The city is home to iconic venues such as the Toyota Center, where major artists perform, and the historic House of Blues.

Dallas, on the other hand, has a thriving music scene with venues like American Airlines Center and the Granada Theater, which host a wide range of concerts and events. Both cities attract top-tier talent and provide ample opportunities for music lovers to enjoy live performances.

Did you know? Houston’s NRG Stadium, which is home to the Houston Texans, has a seating capacity of 71,995 for football games, making it one of the largest stadiums in the NFL.

For more information on upcoming sports events and concerts in Houston, you can visit Visit Houston. Similarly, if you’re interested in exploring the entertainment scene in Dallas, you can check out Visit Dallas for a comprehensive list of events and venues.


In conclusion, both Houston and Dallas have claims for bigness based on different criteria. Looking strictly at population within city limits, Houston takes the title for now. But the Dallas metro area outpaces Houston slightly in total population. Geographically, Houston covers more land area. Economically, DFW sees higher GDP but Houston also wields enormous influence. Both cities offer abundant sports and entertainment options, strong job markets and diverse populations.

While the two cities are different in nature, Houston’s port and energy industries versus Dallas’ stronger finance and tech presence, they both represent major hubs within the state of Texas. Determining which city is “bigger” depends on the factors weighed most heavily. Regardless of individual rankings, Houston and Dallas both stand tall as iconic metropolises in the Lone Star State.

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