Number 2..We’ll take it!

Richard Green is a professor of real estate, finance and economics at the George Washington University

Back to the City?
I go to lots of meetings where people claim that baby boomers are returning to central cities. Here are some data on population growth change of the 25 largest cities and the

US between 2000-2006.
Detroit city -8.43%
Philadelphia -4.56%
San Francisco -4.21%
Milwaukee city -3.96%
Baltimore city -3.04%
Chicago city -2.16%
Boston city 0.28%
Indianapolis 0.48%
Washington city 1.66%
New York city 2.57%
San Diego city 2.74%
Columbus city 3.05%
Memphis city 3.20%
Seattle city 3.39%
Dallas city 3.73%
San Jose city 3.91%
Los Angeles 4.18%
United States 6.30%
Jacksonville 8.01%
El Paso city 8.12%
Austin city 8.12%
Houston city 9.77%
San Antonio 13.28%
Phoenix city 14.53%
Charlotte city 16.58%
Fort Worth city 22.19%

The data are estimates that come from the census web site. First note that all but eight cities have grown less rapidly than the country as a whole; this means that their population growth comes from births over deaths, rather than net in-migration from, say, the suburbs. Moreover, in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose (perhaps others as well), much of the in-migration comes from abroad, meaning that domestic out-migration is larger than the raw figures would suggest. Finally, those cities that grew faster than the country–Jacksonville, El Paso, Austin, Houston, San Antonio Phoenix, Charlotte and Fort Worth–either have strong annexation powers or lots of land at the urban fringe inside of municipal boundaries.

They do not reflect population moving from the fringe into the center city.Some cities are doing well despite the absence of much population growth. And here in Washington, the population of white affluent people is growing, but it is pushing out low-income African-Americans, largely to Prince George’s County (a suburban county to the northeast). The affluent moving in are more likely to be childless (according to Julia Friedman, only five percent of taxpayers in the District are married couples with children), and so they are driving down density per housing unit. This is why population is not growing much, but the fiscal condition of the city has improved dramatically.

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