Can suburbs catch up with cities?

The post-recession growth of large cities is slowing as suburbs — and their contribution to the economy– finally recover, Census estimates released today show.

Over half of the cities with more than 250,000 people added fewer residents than the previous year, according to calculations by demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

And in 53 metro areas over 1 million people, central cities slipped to the same 1% growth rate as their suburbs, Frey said. In 2012, those same cities were growing 20% faster than their suburbs. From 2000-10, the reverse was true: Those suburbs grew at three times the rate of their cities.

The trend may signal that smaller cities and suburbs can once again draw people seeking work and affordable housing.

“I don’t think we’ll know for sure until we have a full-fledged economic resurgence,” Frey said.

City-vs-suburb
City-vs-suburbs

But the last decade may have given large cities a strong leg up in the competition. Frey found that almost half of large cities already have grown more since 2010 than they did in the previous decade.

One is San Jose, which reached 1.02 million and became the 10th city to top 1 million (not including Detroit, which fell under 1 million in the 1990s.) Riding Silicon Valley’s boom, San Jose has grown 6.6% since 2010.

That boom also boosted San Francisco by 1.3% last year, enough to step over Indianapolis to become the 13th-largest city at 852,459. The effects of the boom have spread across San Francisco Bay, where Oakland has grown almost 6% since 2010, reversing a 2% drop in the previous decade.

Other highlights:

— Denver vaulted Washington, Memphis and Boston to become 21st-largest, at 663,862, up more than  2% last year and 11% since 2010.

— Las Vegas, once again growing strongly, stepped over Louisville, as did Portland, Oregon, to reach 29th and 28th, respectively. Louisville has grown almost 11% since 2010, but Portland has grown 17% and Las Vegas, 28%.

— Almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans grew 1.4% to 384,320, topping Arlington, Texas for 50th. It has grown almost 12% since 2010 but remains 20% smaller than in 2000.

— Just 12 of the 100 largest cities lost population in the last year, and just seven have done so since 2010: Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Buffalo and Baton Rouge.

–Texas’ five largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Forth Worth — together added 125,000 people, or 1.5%, to reach 6.68 million.

–Paul Overberg

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