Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where The City Out Paces The Suburbs

New housing construction
Aliso Viejo, California
Hello Everyone:

Since I'm in a clean-out-the-drop box mode, I decided to pull out this article written by Richard Florida for City Lab titled, "Where Cities Are Growing Faster Than Their Suburbs."  It's a good look at where, in the United States, urban growth is outpacing suburban growth.  For much of the past fifty years, suburbs grew faster than cities. However, over the last ten years, the reverse has been true. This phenomenon is something that journalist and executive editor of Governing, Alan Ehrenhalt refers to as "the great inversion."  Mr. Ehrenhalt is also the author of the book The Great Inversion And The Future Of The American City, in which he fully outlines the major trends that driving the shift in the way we live.  Essentially, "the great inversion" is a "trading of places within metropolitan areas." (  Mr. Florida points that "...the question of where growth is centered-in cities or suburbs-has emerged as one of the great dividing lines in the debate over urban America's future.

Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters 2010
In May of this year, Brookings Institution demographer William Frey analyzed the most current census data on population growth in order to address this question.  Mr. Frey focused on information for the first third of the decade, using the numbers between 2010 and July 2013, comparing the growth of "primary cities" and their suburbs throughout America's largest metropolitan areas (i.e. those with a million or greater people).  His conclusions appear to be good news for urbanists.  In general, the data appears to support the idea of a great inversion form the previous era's mass suburbanization. Between 2010 and 2013, main urban populations have grown faster than their suburban counterparts.  However, Mr. Frey revealed that this gap closes by 2012-13,  Overall, the main cities in metropolitan regions grew at a rates of 1.02 percent from 2012 to 2013, down .11 percent from the year before.  Meanwhile, the attending suburban regions, grew .96 percent in that same time period, roughly the same .95 percent as the year before.

Denver, Colorado

William Frey found that nineteen out of the fifty-one largest metropolitan regions saw their central cities grow faster then the surrounding suburbs from 2012-13.  Specifically, these include most of the knowledge economy centers such as: New York, Washington D.C., Denver, and Seattle.  Richard Florida decided to do a little more research into the great inversion. With the help of his team at Martin Prosperity Institute, Mr. Florida took a closer look where and what of urban and suburban growth over the same time frames, comparing metrics to overall metropolitan growth.

Population growth in metropolitan areas
Zara Matheson of MPI, with the help of ESRI technology, constructed a map that presents the breakdown of overall demographic growth in American's biggest metropolitan areas.  The findings revealed something quite fascinating.  While several metropolitan areas saw very fast rates of growth in their primary cities, seven of which experienced a 2 percent increase, this increase was not in the usual places of urban revival.  Rather, they included places of high-tech knowledge based economies such as: San Jose, Austin, Raleigh-Cary, Denver, and Seattle.  Other places that experienced growth were in the energy producing centers: Houston, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans; also the Sun Belt Cities of Phoenix, Orlando, and San Antonio also show growth.  What these non-primary cities have in common is that they experienced growth faster in their primary faster than the San Francisco, New York, and Boston metropolitan areas did.

Best Cities Score
The metropolitan area where the primary city grew the fastest in contrast to the suburb was New Orleans, where the main city grew 2.4 percent compared to 0.5 percent for the suburbs.  This was a result of rapid urban rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina, Seattle, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area also saw marked faster growth in their main cities than their suburbs, albeit, the margin was substantially small than in New Orleans.  Urban growth outpaced suburban growth in Columbus, Richmond, Denver, Washington D.C., San Diego, Raleigh, Boston, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Tampa Orland, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.  Chicago and Portland also experienced similar growth urban/suburban growth rates.

By contrast, suburban growth exceeded urban increases in the remaining thirty large metropolitan areas.  These include the traditionally sprawl-centric Sun Belt areas such as Jacksonville, Houston, Las Vegas, and Nashville as well as Rust Belt cities such as Detroit, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.  The big shock was the growth rate of the suburbs near San Francisco, which grew 1.5 percent, more than the 1.3 percent seen by the primary city.  Just as shocking was the fact that primary city growth out distanced suburban growth in the nerd epicenter of Silicon Valley, where the primary city-San Jose metro-grew 1.5 percent in contrast to the 1.3 percent growth rate of the suburbs.

Comparing metropolitan, city, and suburban growth
Zara Matheson
The chart on the left compare the growth (and declination) rates for primary city, suburban, and overall metropolitan growth for the twenty largest American metropolitan areas.  Looking a little closer at how city, suburban, and metropolitan growth rates stack up, Mr. Florida's colleague Charlotta Mellander ran a correlation analysis on these numbers and found that they were all closely correlated.  Both urban and suburban growth were very closely connected to overall metropolitan growth with correlations of .90 and .96 each, while urban and suburban growth were closely linked to each with a correlation of .77.  In short, growth creates growth.

Thus, even though the new numbers conclude that urban growth is slightly down from 2010-11, there is little reason to conclude that the urban revival was a momentary flash.  Urban growth is still higher than suburban growth in one-third of all large metropolitan areas.  While it is true that the current figure, nineteen metropolitan areas, is lower than the 2010-11 number of twenty-seven metro, more than half, saw rapid growth in their primary cities.  Nevertheless, the current number of growing metropolitan areas remains far ahead of where it was in the previous decade, when William Frey concluded that just five large metropolitan areas saw faster growth in their primary cities than their suburbs during the 2000s.  Therefore, it would seem that the era of suburban growth, for better or worse, has come to a close.

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