New census estimates show that most of the nation’s largest cities further enhanced their allure last year, posting strong population growth for a second straight year.
Big cities surpassed the rate of growth of their surrounding suburbs at an even faster clip, in a sign of America’s continuing preference for urban living after the economic downturn quelled enthusiasm for less-crowded expanses.
Farther-out suburbs, known as “exurbs,” saw their growth slip to 0.35 percent, the lowest in more than a decade.
Economists generally had played down the recent city boom as an aberration, predicting that young adults in the recovering economy would soon be back on the move after years of staying put in big cities. But the widening gains for cities in 2012 indicate that young people – as well as would-be retirees seeking quieter locales – are playing it safe for a while longer in dense urban cores, where jobs may be easier to find and keep.
Prior to 2011, suburbs had consistently outpaced big cities since 1920, with the rise of the automobile.
The new census estimates are a snapshot of population growth as of July 2012. The Associated Press sought additional analysis from William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, and Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
Census data show that many closer-in suburbs linked to a city with public transit or well-developed roadways are benefiting from strong city growth, while far-flung areas near the metropolitan edge are fizzling after heady growth during the mid-decade housing boom.
- New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston each grew faster between 2010 and 2012 than they did annually between 2000 and 2010.
- Texas continued to be the big population winner, accounting for eight of the 15 fastest-growing cities with populations of 50,000 or more from 2011-2012.
- New York remained the nation’s most populous city, at 8.3 million, with the rest of the top 10 unchanged. Austin, Texas moved up from 13th to 11th, supplanting Jacksonville, Fla.; Indianapolis slipped from 12th to 13th.