Big city growth stalls further, as the suburbs make a comeback

As we approach the end of the 2010s, the biggest cities in the United States are experiencing slower growth or population losses, according to new census estimates. The combination of city growth declines and higher suburban growth suggests that the “back to the city” trend seen at the beginning of the decade has reversed.

These trends are consistent with previous census releases for counties and metropolitan areas that point to a greater dispersion of the U.S. population as the economy and housing market pick back up, perhaps propelled by young adult millennials who may be finally departing dense urban cores as they make a delayed entrance into marriage and the housing market.

The new census statistics provide estimates for city populations annually between 2010 and 2018. They show that the average annual growth for the nation’s 87 cities with populations over a quarter million have slipped to 0.69% in 2017-2018—down from 0.76% the previous year, and from 1.21% in 2011-2012, the highest average growth since the Great Recession. Among the 87 largest metros, 66 exhibited lower growth in the last year than in 2011-2012

These slowdowns were especially pronounced in the biggest cities. Among the largest 22, all but two (Jacksonville, Fla. and Fort Worth, Texas) showed lower growth last year than in 2011-2012. Twelve of the cities displayed their lowest growth since 2010, including northern cities like New York City and Boston but also other pricey coastal cities like San Francisco and Sun Belt growth centers like Dallas. Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, has now registered four straight years of population loss. In addition to Chicago, New York City and San Jose were other cities with populations over one million to register losses last year.

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"Big city growth stalls further, as the suburbs make a comeback"; by William H. Frey; The Brookings Institution; May 24, 2019

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