January 25, 2015

CITIES WERE A MISTAKE:

The End of the Suburbs and Four Other American Migration Myths (NEIL SHAH, 1/23/15, WSJ)

People tend to focus on migrants entering and exiting the U.S., but movement within our borders is arguably a much bigger deal. In 2013, about 27% of the U.S. population was born in one state, but lived in another. Compare that to just 15% of the population that was born overseas. "Interstate" migration, in other words, is basically double international migration. And all these domestic movers shape local economies in myriad ways: They rent apartments, buy homes, lease cars, purchase groceries, have children and vote. [...]

Perhaps the biggest myth is that Americans are moving to cities in droves. Yes, Americans have been departing sparsely populated rural areas for metropolitan areas, which contain urban "cores" surrounded by suburbs. But that's not the same thing as moving to cities. While there is definitely a cultural shift among young people toward urban lifestyles--since many are putting off marriage and kids--most young people simply aren't moving at all. The 2007-09 recession, which was especially hard on 20- and 30-somethings, along with demographics and weak incomes, is making movement harder. As a result, urban cores, or "principal cities," have seen population growth recently that has rivaled suburbs in percentage terms. But the above trends likely will delay, not reverse, suburbanization. In a study of home prices and U.S. Postal Service data released Thursday, Trulia's chief economist, Jed Kolko, says "old patterns have returned" and "suburbs are now gaining population faster than urban neighborhoods." Surveys by both Trulia and the National Association of Home Builders suggest millennials still desire suburban homes. An aging U.S. population probably means slightly more suburban living, Mr. Kolko notes. And beyond demographics and the recession, the bigger point is this: Many, many more Americans move to suburbs from cities each year than the other way around--a trend the Economist noted last month. U.S. suburbs added 5.8 million domestic migrants between 2012 and 2013, and only lost 3.2 million. "Principal cities" actually saw a net loss of domestic migrants. Migration, simply put, favors lower-density suburbs over higher-density urban areas. Families, especially black and Hispanic ones, want space and better schools, even if educated 20-somethings are hanging out in Denver. The prospect of a sweeping generational shift is tempting, but much of America's migration, Mr. Stone reminds us in his posts, is intensely local.

Posted by at January 25, 2015 6:17 PM
  

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