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Signs of a suburban comeback


WASHINGTON – May 22, 2014 – The tug of war between America's urban and suburban areas appears to be tilting back in favor of the land of lawns and shopping malls. According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 14 of the country's 20 largest cities – including Detroit and Philadelphia – saw growth slow or their populations decrease in 2012-2013 versus 2011-2012.

In several cases, rapidly expanding cities are beginning to flag. Austin's growth rate, for instance, dipped from 3.1 percent to 2.4 percent. In other examples, slower-growing cities saw progress decelerate even more. In New York, for instance, the growth rate decreased from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent.

In total, only 18 of the nation's 51 metro areas with more than 1 million people had cities growing faster than their suburbs in 2013. That's down from 25 the year before, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by Brookings Institution demographer William H. Frey.

He comments, "City growth may be bottoming out, as well as the downsizing of the outer suburbs," says Frey. It remains unclear "whether the city slowdown signals a return to renewed suburban growth."

Overall, cities continue to grow slightly faster than the suburbs. Younger Americans and retirees opting for city life, either for lifestyle reasons or as part of an age-related downsizing, have fueled some of this growth.

At the same time, exurbs are seeing an increase in growth. When taken together, suburbs and exurbs increased at a 1.04 percent annual rate in 2012-13, an increase from 0.99 percent in 2011-2012, according to Frey's analysis. Over that same time span, growth in urban core areas slipped from 0.91 percent to 0.81 percent.

Source: Wall Street Journal (05/22/14) P. A3; Shah, Neil

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Related Topics: Trends