Eighty years ago, the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas was a rural, agriculture-based economy characterized by sporadic growth. Today, the area is being transformed into a major international trade area by developing first-rate commercial, retail, office, industrial, medical, retirement and educational facilities. The promotion of international and retail trade, tourism and manufacturing is among the most successful along the U.S.-Mexico Border.
The Rio Grande Valley includes the four southern-most counties in Texas: Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy. It is in the geographic center of the region most recently termed the Rioplex, which includes the four Rio Grande Valley counties and the Northern Mexico border cities between Matamoros and Ciudad Mier.
The principal cities of McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen combine to form the northern half of the Rioplex and are among the most rapidly growing region in America. The 2017 Census places the population of the McAllen MSA at 860,661, a 9.5% increase over 2010. The Brownsville Harlingen MSA at a 2017 population of 423,725, a 3.5% increase over 2010. When Willacy and Starr County are added to the population of the two Valley MSAs, the combined population in 2017 is estimated to be 1,370,632 people. That places the Valley 49th in the country among the metropolitan statistical areas as shown in the table above. The southern half of Borderplex includes the Mexico border cities of Matamoros, Rio Bravo and Reynosa, which contribute at least another 2.7 million to the region’s population. This brings the total population of this bi-national, bicultural, bilingual, international metropolitan area to 4 million people.
Hispanics represent 90% of the McAllen area population and individuals under 35 years of age make up between 59.3% of the population. The population, although diverse, is defined by two dominant demographic criteria: Hispanic and young.