A new Brookings report shows that even as population growth in many suburbs, exurbs, and smaller metropolitan areas is slowing down during the current housing crisis, population growth is accelerating in many large central cities. In cities such as Washington, DC, and Atlanta, central city growth has surpassed suburban growth according to the most recent Census Bureau data.
The Census figures used in the report are current up to the 12- month period ending in July 2008 when the worst effects of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis began to materialize. As a group, all cities with populations over 1 million residents grew at a faster rate during this period than at any other time this decade. In addition, 54 of the 75 cities with populations exceeding 200,000 grew faster compared to the peak years of the housing bubble in 2004-2005.
The report states that the numbers show that large urban centers that are economically and demographically diverse are resilient during the current economic recession while smaller cities and one-industry towns have been struggling. Other factors that may have contributed to the growth was the ability of large cities to retain and attract residents who were no longer moving to the suburbs, as speculative mortgage lending dried up and immigrants returned to networks in established city communities.
The cities that did have a decline in population growth rates were those that were in the center of the foreclosure crisis, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, and those with large manufacturing industries such as Detroit and St. Louis. However, the report states that declines in large city population were relatively rare.
The report cautions that it does not include Census data from the worst effects of the economic recession from late 2008 to early 2009. It will not be another year until Census figures are available that show the full impact of the recession and rising unemployment on population growth in cities.
The full Brookings report, “Big City Populations Survive the Housing Crunch,” including tables with population growth figures for all cities larger than 200,000 residents is available at: http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0701housingfrey.aspx?emc=lm&m=227387&l=1&v=36600.