Thursday, March 03, 2011

Suburbs Still Rule II

Following up on Friday’s post, this article from New Geography examines the data underlying the obvious, people prefer the suburbs and are moving there and away from the cities.

An excerpt.

“With the release of results for over 20 states, the 2010 Census has provided some strong indicators as to the real evolution of the country’s demography. In short, they reveal that Americans are continuing to disperse, becoming more ethnically diverse and leaning toward to what might be called “opportunity” regions.

“Below is a summary of the most significant findings to date, followed by an assessment of what this all might mean for the coming decade.

“Point One: America is becoming more suburban.

“For much of the past decade, there has been a constant media drumbeat about the “return to the cities.” Urban real estate interests, environmentalists and planners have widely promoted this idea, and it has been central to the ideology of the Obama administration, the most big-city dominated in at least a half century. “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development,” Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan opined last February, “People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.”

“Donavan and others cite such things as the energy price spike in the mid-aughts as well as the mortgage crisis as contributing to the “back to the city” trend. Yet in reality the actual numbers suggest that Donavan and his cronies may need a serious reality check. The Census reveals that, contrary to the “back to the city” rhetoric, suburban growth continues to dominate in most regions of the country, constituting between 80% and 100% of all growth in all but three of the 16 metropolitan areas reporting.

“This includes sprawling regions like Houston, “smart growth“ areas like Seattle and Portland (where suburbs accounted for more than 80% of all growth over the decade) and Midwestern regions like St. Louis, which like Chicago saw a sharp decline in the urban population. The only exceptions have been Oklahoma City, Austin or San Antonio, with vast expanses still allowing for much of new development to take place within the city limits.

“To be sure, no one should pretend that urban fortunes have sunk to their 1970s nadir. Yet overall, central cities, which accounted for a 11% of metropolitan growth in the 1990s, constituted barely 4% of the growth in the last decade. Some core cities, notably Chicago, have shrunk after making gains in the ’90s. Indeed Chicago — the president’s adopted hometown and the poster child of the urban “comeback” — took what analyst Aaron Renn humorously dubbed “a Census shellacking,” losing some 200,000 people, while the outer suburban ring continued to grow and diversify their populations. The Windy City’s population is now down to the lowest level since the 1910 Census.”