Is this meaningful data: Chicago the “slowest-growing major city” between 2011 and 2012?

New figures from the Census show that Chicago doesn’t fare well compared to other cities in recent population growth:

Chicago gained nearly 10,000 people from July 2011 to July 2012, but was the slowest-growing major city in the country according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

It was the second year in a row that population grew here, but the increase so far shows no signs of making up for the loss of 200,000 people over the previous decade…

Among cities with more than one million people, sun-belt metropolises like Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston and San Diego all posted gains of more than 1.3 percent, while Chicago grew by little more than one-third of 1 percent.

With a total estimated population of 2,714,856. Chicago held on to its spot as the third largest city. But the two largest cities padded their leads, with New York City adding 67,000 in 2012 and No. 2 Los Angeles gaining 34,000 people.

While I’m sure some will use these figures to judge Chicago’s politics and development efforts, I’m not sure these figures mean anything. Here’s why:

1. The data only cover one year. This is just one time point. The story does a little bit to provide a wider context by referencing the 2010-2010 population figures but it would also be helpful to know the year-to-year figures for the last two years. In other words, what is the trend in the last several years in Chicago? Is the nearly 10,000 new people much different from 2011 or 1010 or 1009?

2. These are population estimates meaning there is a margin of error for the estimate. Thus, that error might cover a decent amount of population growth in all of these cities.

In the end, we need more data over time to know whether there are long-term trends going on in these major cities.

Two other interesting notes from the Census data:

1. The population growth in the Sunbelt continues:

Eight of the 15 fastest-growing large U.S. cities and towns for the year ending July 1, 2012 were in Texas, according to population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Lone Star State also stood out in terms of the size of population growth, with five of the 10 cities and towns that added the most people over the year…

No state other than Texas had more than one city on the list of the 15 fastest-growing large cities and towns. However, all but one were in the South or West.

This fits with what Joel Kotkin has been saying for a while.

2. Many Americans continue to live in communities with fewer than 50,000 people:

Of the 19,516 incorporated places in the United States, only 3.7 percent (726) had populations of 50,000 or more in 2012.

However, many of these smaller communities are suburbs near big cities. It’s too bad there aren’t figures here about what percentage of Americans live in those 726 communities of 50,000 or more.

One thought on “Is this meaningful data: Chicago the “slowest-growing major city” between 2011 and 2012?

  1. Pingback: Closing on a house feels like… | Legally Sociable

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