June 11, 2018


Early decade big city growth continues to fall off, census shows (William H. Frey, May 29, 2018, Brookings)

Newly released census data for city population growth through 2017 show that what I and others previously heralded as the "decade of the city" may be less valid during the waning years of the 2010s. While most big cities are still gaining population, the rates of that gain are falling off for many of them as the nation's population shows signs of broad dispersal.

The new numbers for big cities--those with a population of over a quarter million--are telling. Among these 84 cities, 55 of them either grew at lower rates than the previous year or sustained population losses. This growth fall-off further exacerbates a pattern that was suggested last year. The average population growth of this group from 2016 to 2017 was 0.83 percent--down from well over 1 percent for earlier years of the decade and lower than the average annual growth rate among these cities for the 2000 to 2010 decade (see Figure 1). [...]

[T]he pervasiveness of declining big city growth, which began to become evident with last year's numbers, reflects a broader dispersal of the nation's population--from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs, and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. These patterns are apparent with domestic migration flows and regional population shifts. They reflect the easing up of constrains toward personal and job mobility as the economy continues to revive.

Still another indicator of this dispersion is the return of the suburban growth advantage over cities--now apparent for the second year in a row, after five years of a city growth advantage, for the combined populations of the nation's 53 largest metropolitan areas, each with populations exceeding one million (see Figure 3).

Posted by at June 11, 2018 3:46 AM