An analysis of population data by demographer Wendell Cox, including the Census report for the most recent year released late last week, shows that since 2000, virtually all the 10 fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States are located in Sun Belt states. The population of the Raleigh, N.C., metropolitan statistical area has expanded a remarkable 47.8% since 2000, tops among the nation’s 52 metro areas with over 1 million residents. That is more than three times the overall 12.7% growth of those 52 metro areas.
Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas also expanded more than 40%, putting them second and third on our list. The populations of the other metro areas in the top 10 all expanded by at least 25%, or twice the national average. This jibes nicely with domestic migration trends and growth in the foreign-born population, both of which have been strongest in many of these same cities…
So what do these trends tell us about the demographic evolution of our major metropolitan areas? Certainly sustained economic growth, low density and more affordable housing all clearly continue to push the center of population gravity toward certain Sun Belt cities, primarily in the Southeast and Texas. It turns out that neither the Great Recession, the housing bust or a much hyped preference for dense urbanity is turning this around.
Kotkin wants to use this data to show that Americans are not flocking to denser cities in the Northeast and Midwest as much as some pundits want to claim. Regardless of the debate over which cities are better for Americans, the data seems to suggest that the Sunbelt is still growing the fastest.
I have another idea of why these Sunbelt cities are growing faster compared to the more established Midwest and Northeast cities. What if there is some tipping point, perhaps a particular population or the space available for development in a region, where urban growth slows? Regions can only grow so much before suburban commuters on the edge are not willing to go too far – megacommuters are not too common.