Monday, February 28, 2011

Joel Kotkin cannot find evidence of a "Back to the City" movement

He puts together a table of suburban and core urban growth based on 2000 and 2010 census data.

MSA                   Core Growth                         Suburban Growth                             Total Growth

Austin 20.4%                                       56.1%                                              37.3%
Baltimore -4.6% 9.9% 6.2%
Chicago -6.9% 9.0% 3.9%
Dallas-Fort Worth 0.8% 30.2% 23.4%
Houston 7.5% 39.3% 26.1%
Indianapolis 5.0% 28.3% 15.2%
San Antonio 16.0% 43.7% 25.2%
Washington 5.2% 16.8% 15.4%
Total 3.2% 21.7% 15.7%

These are places for which the Census had released data by mid-February. Some of the places for which data has been released since then--St. Louis, Las Vegas and Birmingham--have the same pattern: in all cases suburban growth has outpaced central city growth. St. Louis' population has dropped to its lowest level since 1870.

The results seem particularly surprising for Chicago and Washington, which have had successful redevelopment in their urban cores. But redevelopment can actually reduce density. Gentrification often means that wealthy households rehabilitate mult-family properties into single family homes. This can lead to an increase in wealth in cities, but does not necessary translate into a relative increase in population.

I have long rooted for cities (although I confess that I myself live in an "urban" suburb). But facts are facts, and the facts from the 2010 census at this point do not support the idea of a reversal from suburbanization to urbanization.