Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Suburban/Urban Diversions

While some attempt a spin supporting the "dying suburbs" narrative from recent census data, the spin stops at the New Geography story revealing that the data clearly show no change in the historic migration to the suburbs rather than to the cities.

An overwhelming majority of people--since ancient times--prefer to live in the suburbs rather than the downtowns of cities.

An excerpt.

“The week opened with an important report on metropolitan demographics by the Brookings Institution, only to be followed by the Census Bureau's annual report on migration, which contained a different message than the Brookings report. We offer yet a third analysis, since both the Brookings and the Census Bureau reports classify up to one-sixth of suburban population as not being in the suburbs.

“Brookings: The new Brookings State of Metropolitan America report examined trends in the 100 largest metropolitan areas using Census Bureau data between 2000 and 2008 (the census and the American Community Survey). Brookings highlighted findings that some "primary cities" were experiencing an increase in white population, while the rest of the metropolitan area (which it called suburbs) was becoming more diverse. Not uncharacteristically, the core city oriented press took the bait and embellished a bit on the findings. MSNBC characterized the report as indicating that "many younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes." Brookings, which largely shares and encourages the urbanist media spin, calls this movement of young, educated whites from suburbs to the cities "bright flight."

“Brookings also expanded is previous finding that the majority of people in poverty live in suburbs to note that a majority of Hispanic and African-Americans now live in the suburbs. This is really not all that surprising, since suburban areas continue to grow faster and comprise the overwhelming share of metropolitan population.

“Census Bureau: Just a day or two later, the Census Bureau published its annual analysis of migration in the nation. The basis of this report is the Current Population Survey, which like the American Community Survey is conducted by the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau report received considerably less press attention than the Brookings report, perhaps it would be hard to characterize any of its findings as being consistent with the favored "death of the suburbs" line. The previous annual editions back to the beginning of the decade indicate little difference from the 2008-2009 migration trends in the current report.

“The Census Bureau analysis indicates that, almost regardless of the category, many more people are moving from "principal cities" to what it refers to as "suburbs."
• Every ethnic group is moving to the suburbs in greater numbers than to principal cities. Three times as many Hispanics are moving from principal cities to the suburbs as from the suburbs to principal cities. The same is true for twice as many African-Americans and Asians. Whites are moving to the suburbs at 1.5 times the rate of their moving to principal cities (Figure 1).
• Every age group but one is moving to the suburbs at substantially above the rate of movement to the principal cities. There is strong movement among people aged from 20 to 25 to the suburbs rather than the principal cities (Figure 2). The one exception was that among people over 85 years of age, not exactly the epitome of the “bright flight” cited by Brookings and the media.
• The overwhelming migration from principal cities to the suburbs, rather than from suburbs to principal cities was characteristic across all income categories.
• There is, in reality, little "bright flight" to report. Among people with college and graduate degrees, nearly twice as many moved from principal cities to suburbs as moved from suburbs to principal cities (Figure 2). While the Census report does not provide mobility information on educational attainment by age, there was strong movement of young adults to the suburbs (noted above).”