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Harris County, Texas facts for kids

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Harris County
Harris County
The Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston
The Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston
Official seal of Harris County
Map of Texas highlighting Harris County
Location within the U.S. state of Texas
Map of the United States highlighting Texas
Texas's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 610: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
Country  United States
State  Texas
Founded 1837
Seat Houston
Largest city Houston
 • Total 1,777 sq mi (4,600 km2)
 • Land 1,703 sq mi (4,410 km2)
 • Water 74 sq mi (190 km2)  4.2%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,608/sq mi (1,007/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional districts 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 18th, 22nd, 29th, 36th
Map of Harris County - Northeast One-fourth
Map of Harris County – Northeast one-fourth (circa 1912)

Harris County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 4,092,459, making it the most populous county in Texas and the third-most populous county in the United States. Its county seat is Houston, the largest city in Texas and fourth-largest city in the United States. The county was founded in 1836 and organized in 1837. It is named for John Richardson Harris, an early settler of the area. By the July 2016 Census Bureau estimate Harris County's population had grown to 4,589,928.

Harris County is included in the Houston–The WoodlandsSugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Firefighters and Carriages
Firefighters on San Jacinto Street, circa 1914
The Harris County Courthouse in Houston, in 1913.

John Richardson Harris, early Harris County settler and founder of Harrisburg, the son of John and Mary (Richardson) Harris, was born in Cayuga, New York, on October 22, 1790.

On May 7, 1813, he married Jane Birdsall. John and Jane Birdsall Harris settled near Waterloo, New York, where two sons, DeWitt Clinton and Lewis Birdsall Harris, were born. In 1819 they were living in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, where their daughter Mary Jane Harris Briscoe was born. A third son, John Birdsall Harris, was born in 1821.

At Ste. Genevieve Harris met Moses Austin and decided to move to Texas. He came to Texas in his own vessel in 1824 and received title to 4,428 acres of land at the junction of Bray's and Buffalo bayous in what is now Harris County. He boarded with William Scott while he built a house on the peninsula between the bayous and a store and warehouse on Buffalo Bayou.

In 1826 he employed Francis W. Johnson to lay out the town of Harrisburg. With his brother David Harris, John Harris established a second trading post at Bell's Landing on the Brazos River. Their sloops and schooners plied between Texas and New Orleans. One of these vessels, the Rights of Man, carried eighty-four bales of cotton to New Orleans in 1828.

Harris was building a steam sawmill-gristmill at Harrisburg in 1829, when he went to New Orleans to buy equipment and there contracted yellow fever. After his death on August 21, 1829, his sawmill and shipping enterprise were operated by his brothers David, Samuel, and William Plunkett Harris. His widow and son DeWitt moved to Texas in 1833; the other children came later.

Litigation over Harris's estate prevented Harrisburg from becoming the seat of the new Texas government in 1836, when Houston was named instead.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,777 square miles (4,600 km2), of which 1,703 square miles (4,410 km2) is land and 74 square miles (190 km2) (4.2%) is water. Both its total area and land area are larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 4,668
1860 9,070 94.3%
1870 17,375 91.6%
1880 27,985 61.1%
1890 37,249 33.1%
1900 63,786 71.2%
1910 115,693 81.4%
1920 186,667 61.3%
1930 359,328 92.5%
1940 528,961 47.2%
1950 806,701 52.5%
1960 1,243,158 54.1%
1970 1,741,912 40.1%
1980 2,409,547 38.3%
1990 2,818,199 17.0%
2000 3,400,578 20.7%
2010 4,092,459 20.3%
2016 (est.) 4,589,928 12.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
1850–2010 2010–2014

2010 Census

As of the 2010 Census, the population of the county was 4,092,459, White Americans made up 56.6% of Harris County's population; non-Hispanic whites represented 33.0% of the population. Black Americans made up 18.9% of the population. Native Americans made up 0.7% of Harris County's population. Asian Americans made up 6.2% of the population (2.0% Vietnamese, 1.2% Indian, 1.1% Chinese, 0.6% Filipino, 0.3% Korean, 0.1% Japanese, 1.0% Other). Pacific Islander Americans made up just 0.1% of the population. Individuals from other races made up 14.3% of the population; people from two or more races made up 3.2% of the county's population. Hispanics and Latinos (of any race) made up 40.8% of Harris County's population. As of the 2010 census, there were about 6.2 same-sex couples per 1,000 households in the county.


Harris County 1910 Courthouse Restored Houston Texas
Harris County 1910 Courthouse Restored

According to Children At Risk, a local non-profit research organization, 20.8% of the Harris County children live in poverty, 6.5 per 1,000 die before age 1, and 38% drop out of high school.


Harris County along with other Texas counties has one of the nation's highest property tax rates. In 2007, the county was ranked in the top 25 at 22nd in the nation for property taxes as percentage of the homes value on owner-occupied housing. The list only includes counties with a population over 65,000 for accuracy.

Racial and ethnic demographics

As of 2014 Census estimates, Harris County had a population of 4,441,370 people.

The racial and ethnic make-up of the county was 41.8% Hispanic or Latino. The population was 31.4% non-Hispanic white, 19.5% non-Hispanic black, 1.1% Native American, 7.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander. [Harris County Demographics]

As of 2013 37% of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County had postgraduate degrees and 36% of them had annual incomes over $75,000. Altogether, the non-Hispanic white population in Harris County is declining.

As of 2013 19% of blacks in Harris County have postgraduate degrees.

Steve H. Murdock, a demographer with the Rice University Hobby Center for the Study of Texas and a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, predicted that by 2040, Hispanic residents of the county will increase by 2.5 million, while the number of non-Hispanic whites will decrease by 516,000. This assumes that the net migration rate is equal to one half of that of 1990–2000. As of 2013 13% of U.S.-born Latinos have postgraduate degrees, and 7% of Latino immigrants have postgraduate degrees.

The Houston Area Asian Survey of the Kinder Institute of Urban Research Houston Area Survey stated that between 1990 and 2000 the Asian population in Harris County increased by 76%. Between 2000 and 2010 it increased by 45%. The Asian ethnic groups in Harris County have differing levels of educational attainment, religion, political views, and income. During that year, in Harris County, 50% of the county's Asian immigrants have postgraduate degrees. As of 2013 28% of Harris County Asians have household incomes of over $75,000. The report stated that many Asians were in earlier stages of careers and were younger, leading to lower incomes. Of Indian and Pakistani residents, the second most educated Asian group in the county, behind Taiwanese, 71% have university or post-graduate degrees and 2% did not finish high school. Of Vietnamese, the least educated Asian group in the county, 30% have university or post-graduate degrees and 20% did not finish high school.

As of 2012 Vietnamese were the largest group of Asians in Harris County. As of 1995 most Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Chinese stated that they were Republicans, while most Indians and Pakistanis stated that they were Democrats. In 2012, Indians and Pakistanis continue to identify as Democrats while Chinese, Filipinos, and Vietnamese were increasingly identifying as independents or Democrats.


Harris County Criminal Courts Building
Harris County Criminal Courts Building

In 2000, 1,961,993 residents of Harris County spoke English only. The five largest foreign languages in the county were Spanish or Spanish Creole (1,106,883 speakers), Vietnamese (53,311 speakers), Chinese (33,003 speakers), French including Cajun and Patois (33,003 speakers), and Urdu (14,595 speakers). Among those who spoke other languages, 46% of Spanish speakers, 37% of Vietnamese speakers, 50% of Chinese speakers, 85% of French speakers, and 72% of Urdu speakers said that they spoke English at least "very well".


In 2013 Allen Turner of the Houston Chronicle said that residents of Harris County were "consistently conservative in elections" and that they were, according to a Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research opinion poll, "surprisingly liberal on topics such as immigration, gun control and equal matrimonial rights for same-sex couples". It's been widely regarded to be a moderate or swing county in Texas, and has been a bellwether in Presidential elections, voting for winners of every Presidential elections since 2000 (both Barack Obama and Texas resident George W. Bush have won the county).

As a result of the Obama sweep in 2008, many Democratic candidates in contests for lower-level offices also benefited, and many Republican incumbents were replaced by Democrats in the Harris County courthouse. Some of the defeated Republican district court judges were later re-appointed to vacant District Court benches by Governor Rick Perry. Republicans continue to hold all statewide offices after the 2014 elections, including all nine slots on each of the two high courts, but Harris County still has a mix of Democratic and Republican district court judges. All members of the two courts of appeals in the old Harris County Courthouse, by contrast, are Republicans. They are elected from an appellate district that includes Harris County, but also includes nine other counties that are more conservative and vote more Republican. Any generalizations about political leanings and voting patterns of the local electorate must take into consideration the geographic area/jurisdiction, and the same goes for public opinion polls. Whether elections for local offices coincide with presidential elections or mid-term elections also matters because turnout and composition of the voting segment of the electorate differ. The City of Houston, which overlaps with Harris County in part, but represents a smaller and more urban area and electorate, is even more liberal. That is why the City can elect a mayor who is not only a Democrat, but openly gay. (Mayoral elections are nominally non-partisan).

The opinion poll found that 46% of Harris County residents supported same-sex marriage, up from 37% in 2001, 83% favored offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, providing they speak English and have no criminal record, up from 19% in 2009, and 89% support background checks for all firearms.

Automobile ownership

As of U.S. Census figures current as of 1997, 9% of residents in Harris County did not own automobiles. This figure does not include people who own cars, but do not have enough money to repair the automobiles. As of that year, while the average income of all residents of the county was $41,000 (equivalent to $54,400 in 2018), the average income of households without cars was $13,000 (equivalent to $17,300 in 2018).

Educational attainment

In 2011, according to the nonprofit Children at Risk, one-third of students at public high schools in Harris County do not graduate.

Diplomatic missions

The Consulate-General of Pakistan in Houston in an unincorporated area of Harris County

Various consulates are located in the county; one, the Consulate-General of Pakistan in Houston, which opened in June 2004, is at 11850 Jones Road in an unincorporated section of the county. The other consulates are in areas of Houston.


Harris County Annex M has the headquarters of the Harris County Transit agency.

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) serves several areas within Harris County. An agency of the Harris County government, Harris County Transit, serves communities in Harris County that are not served by METRO.

In Harris County, the average one way commute for a person using an automobile was 25 minutes, while the average commute for a person not using an automobile was 44 minutes, a 76% longer duration than the figure for commuters with cars.

Major highways

  • I-10.svg Interstate 10 aka - Katy Freeway going West or Baytown East Freeway going East
  • I-45.svg Interstate 45 aka - North Freeway going North or Gulf Freeway going South
  • Hardy Toll Road
  • Fort Bend Toll Road
  • Westpark Tollway
  • I-69.svgUS 59.svg Interstate 69/U.S. Highway 59 aka - Eastex Freeway going NE or Southwest Freeway going SW
  • I-610.svg Interstate 610 Loop
  • US 90.svg U.S. Highway 90 aka - Crosby Freeway
  • US 90.svg U.S. Highway 90 Alternate
  • US 290.svg U.S. Highway 290 aka - Northwest Freeway
  • Texas 3.svg State Highway 3
  • Texas 6.svg State Highway 6
  • Toll Texas 99.svg State Highway 99 (Under Construction) aka - Grand Parkway
  • Texas 146.svg State Highway 146
  • Texas 225.svg State Highway 225 aka - La Porte Freeway
  • Texas 249.svg State Highway 249 aka - Tomball Parkway
  • Texas 288.svg State Highway 288 aka - South Freeway
  • Texas Beltway 8.svg Beltway 8

See List of Highways in Harris County for more roadways in Harris County.

Mass transit

Many areas in Harris County are served by Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO), a public transportation agency headquartered in Downtown Houston.

Intercity buses

Greyhound Bus Lines operates various stations throughout Harris County.


Two commercial airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, are located in Houston and in Harris County. The Houston Airport System defines Harris County as a part of Bush Intercontinental's service region. The city of Houston operates Ellington Field, a general aviation and military airport in Harris County.

General aviation airports for fixed-wing aircraft outside of Houston include:

  • Publicly owned
    • La Porte Municipal Airport in La Porte
    • Baytown Airport in unincorporated east Harris County, north of Baytown
  • Privately owned, public use
    • West Houston Airport is a general aviation airport located in unincorporated western Harris County, west of the Houston city limits.
    • Dan Jones International Airport in unincorporated northwestern Harris County
    • Weiser Air Park in unincorporated northern Harris County
    • David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport, a general aviation airport, is located outside of the Tomball city limits in unincorporated northwest Harris County.
    • Sack-O-Grande Acroport (also known as Harbican Airport) is located in western unincorporated Harris County.
  • Privately owned, private use
    • Hoffpauir Airport is located in western unincorporated Harris County.

Political organization

The chief administrative officer of a Texas County, as set up in the Texas Constitution, is the County Judge, who sits as the chair of the county's Commissioners' Court (the equivalent of a Board of Supervisors in some other states). Since 2007, this position in Harris County is held by Judge Ed Emmett. The county is split into 4 geographical divisions called Precincts. Each precinct elects a Commissioner to sit as a representative of their precinct on the commissioners court and also for the oversight of county functions in their area.

Other elected positions in Harris County include a County Attorney, a County Clerk, a District Attorney, a District Clerk, a Sheriff, 8 Constables, a Tax Assessor-Collector, a County Treasurer, and every judge in the county except municipal judges, who are appointed by the officials of their respective cities.

Many of the organs of the Harris County government reside in the Harris County Campus in Downtown Houston.


Cities (multiple counties)


Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


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