Moving America Forward

Cities or Suburbs: Which Area is Seeing a Population Boom?

July 3, 2014
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Cities or Suburbs: Which Area is Seeing a Population Boom?
Austin, Texas. Jims_photos/Flickr Creative Commons
Since the Great Recession, more people are flocking to urban areas.

Close your eyes and picture idyllic tree-lined streets in a cheery suburban neighborhood. If you open your eyes, however, you might still see that image — only there might be a lot of “for sale” signs posted in front yards or dark houses due to vacancy.

That’s because cities are now seeing a population influx. According to census analysis by William Frey of the Brookings Institution, this could be the decade of big-city growth.

Analyzing data from 2010-2013, Frey was able to figure out that cities themselves — not just their metropolitan areas — grew at a measurably faster rate than suburbs, with “primary cities” (those with a population over 1 million) growing 1.13 percent from 2011 to 2012. At the same time, suburban areas grew at only .95 percent.

While the difference (and growth rate itself) may seem minimal, it reflects more significant changes that are happening in a select number of cities such as New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; San Jose, California; Austin, Texas; Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina; Denver; and Seattle. All those cities have even faster growth rates even faster than the national average!

Although there are a variety of reasons that people may be migrating back to cities, one that we’ve mentioned before is the rise of the innovation district – urban areas that are easily accessible and combine a variety of organizations and people advancing ideas and promoting ingenuity. These areas attract not only jobs, but because of their cosmopolitan and integrated feel, residents too.

Another specific driver of growth could be the new transportation initiative in Minneapolis-St. Paul, another booming city, according to City Lab.

So, does this mean the demise of white picket fences and two-car garages? Hardly. As the study points out, the suburbs are continuing to grow, albeit at a slower pace. But with growth, comes innovation — giving cities the upper hand.

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