Latino population growth slows in some US cities

While sociologists and demographers have watched with interest as the Latino population grows in the United States, new data suggests the rate of that growth has slowed in some cities in recent years:

But with the economic downturn that began in 2007, the meltdown of the housing market and a slowdown of new foreign arrivals, many of these same communities have seen the Latino growth rates flatten out.

Of 107 metro areas where the number of Latinos doubled between 2000 and 2010, almost all showed a slowdown in population growth by the end of the decade, according to William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed recently updated figures from the Census Bureau…

Los Angeles, New York and other major metropolitan areas that have long served as gateways and hubs for immigrants still notched small upticks in Latino growth rates at the end of the decade. In fact, the Latino population in the Los Angeles area, which was flat in 2006 at the peak of the housing market nationally, expanded by 1.5% in 2010. New York showed a similar pattern; its Latino growth slowed in the middle of the decade but was up by 2.4% in 2010.

The reason is that many Latinos who had left the big metropolitan areas to find jobs and cheaper housing in smaller cities earlier in the decade returned to those big cities during the tough economic times, Frey said.

The implication here is that economic pressures have slowed these growth rates. A few other thoughts:

1. I’m surprised there are no figures about the overall migration rate into the United States in recent years. Does that factor into this?

2. The Latino population hasn’t declined in these cities but rather has grown as smaller rates. Was the expectation that the growth rate would continue at such a high rate? In other words, is this the economy or also an inevitable/predicted slowdown?

3. Frey argues that cities are still important for minorities. At the same time, we have seen more research in recent years that suggests more minorities and immigrants are moving to the suburbs. So, there are still sizable minority populations in cities that anchor the minority populations even as there is more opportunity and movement to the suburbs?

French suburbs moving away from mainstream French culture

The American suburbs are pretty unique compared to suburbs in other countries. For example, a new study shows that residents in French suburbs are moving away from mainstream French culture:

Local communities in France’s immigrant suburbs increasingly organize themselves on Islamic lines rather than following the values of the secular republic, according to a major new sociological study.

Respected political scientist Gilles Kepel, a specialist in the Muslim world, led a team of researchers in a year-long project in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two Paris suburbs that exploded in riots in 2005.

The resulting study ? “Suburbs of the Republic” ? found that religious institutions and practices are increasingly displacing those of the state and the French Republic, which has a strong secular tradition.

Families from the districts, which are mainly populated by immigrants from north and west Africa and their descendants, regularly attend mosque, fast during Ramadan and boycott school meals that are not “halal.”

American culture is dominated by suburban themes and values while this study suggests the suburbs of France are the alienated portion of society. The study also looked into why the alienation is present, particularly following the 2005 riots:

While the resentment in the poor suburbs has social roots, essentially the residents’ virtual exclusion from a tight jobs market, the rioters expressed frustration in a vocabulary “borrowed from Islam’s semantic register.”

Islamic values are replacing those of a republic which failed to deliver on its promise of “equality”, and the residents of the suburbs increasingly do not see themselves as French, the researchers said.

American culture has some similar issues: we talk about equal opportunities, which is something different than “equality” in the French sense – compare “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Of course, this doesn’t exactly happen: the American system is set up so that certain groups have fewer opportunities over time. The disconnect between official rhetoric and the actual situation on the ground tends to lead to problems at some point.

So which country will effectively tackle these issues first: the French dealing with immigrants in the suburbs or the United States with poor inner-city neighborhoods? Does either country have the political will to truly tackle the root problems rather than simply treating the symptoms?

Australian hipsters eschew suburbs, McMansions while immigrants seek after them

An Australian author argues that hipsters favor the authentic and gritty over suburbs and McMansions while immigrants hold different views:

In movies and TV shows, kids now talk wistfully of getting out of the ‘burbs and heading to funky town, the exact opposite of our grandparents, who drove the other way in search of an extra bedroom, a lawn and somewhere to barbecue the chops.

The aforementioned Great Australian Dream is apparently a nightmare for many hipsters; as laughably daggy as John Williamson singing about plum trees, ”a clothesline out the back, verandah out the front and an old rocking chair”…

Writing recently in Canada’s Toronto Standard, Navneet Alang observes, ”it’s a profoundly privileged, Western idea to want to forsake sterility for the ‘real and gritty’…

Their visions are probably pretty similar to those of our grandparents – a lawn and a nice, big, neat, bland house – because, as Alang writes, ”Once you’ve lived in a developing nation, sterile can feel good. Uncluttered is good. Cars are good.”

The author goes on to suggest that perhaps these young Australians simply think the grass is greener on the other side: after growing up in suburbs, these young people are now looking to urban life. Several thoughts about this:

1. It would be interesting to see survey data about what immigrants imagine America to be before they arrive or even during their early months in the United States. Does it look like suburbia? Is their goal from the beginning to make it to the suburbs?

2. The sterility of the suburbs, often held in contrast to the authenticity, richness, and contrasts of the big city, is an old argument. Just listen to Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes” for an overview. (Interestingly, more people probably know this song now because it is the theme song for a trendy/novel current TV show: Weeds.) I would guess that many suburban residents, particularly those older than hipster age, actually prefer the suburbs over the city because of this sterility: the city may be more interesting but this interesting could also include negative outcomes.

3. Could we see the rise of hipster suburbs or at least hipster enclaves within suburbs? For example, inner-ring suburbs would be perfect places for hipster types: denser and cheaper housing in neighborhoods that have been around a century or more. There are a number of neighborhoods in these suburbs ripe for gentrification (though there could be disadvantages to this). Also, newer New Urbanist developments or neighborhoods might offer the authenticity hipsters seek.

The educational level of immigrants in America

A new report suggests that there are more immigrants with college degrees than immigrants without high school diplomas:

“There’s more high-skilled (immigrants) than people believe,” said Audrey Singer, senior fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the report, which contends that the economic contribution of immigrants has been overshadowed by the rancorous debate over illegal immigration.

Singer and Matthew Hall, a sociologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago, analyzed census data for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas and found that 30 percent of working-age immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 28 percent who lack a high school diploma.

The article suggests that the report is intended to influence the national immigration debate, presumably by suggesting that many immigrants are an asset to the country.

But it would be helpful here to compare these figures for immigrants to the statistics for American adults overall to know whether these figures are impressive or not. Here are the 2010 educational attainment figures for Americans 18 and older of all races: 27.28% have a bachelor’s degree or higher while 13.71% have less than a high school degree. It looks like the figures for immigrants are more polarized compared to the general population with a higher percentage, about 2-3% more, having a college degree while a much higher percentage, about double, having less than a high school diploma. (Figures for Americans 25 and older change a little: 29.93% have a college degree or greater while 12.86% have less than a high school degree.)

The value, then, in the figures about immigrants are probably in the field of public perceptions, particularly the statistic of immigrants with a college degree which matches up well with comparisons to Americans 18+ and 25+ years old.

(The article doesn’t address this and I don’t know if the report does either: does it matter that the figures for immigrants are drawn from the 100 largest metropolitan areas? Would the figures be different if looking at all immigrants?)

An architect places the McMansion in a box of mirrors

An architect recently spoke at Dartmouth and discussed his thoughts about McMansions:

Cruz showed the audience his representation of “McMansions,” or luxury suburban residences, which have become a large part of the ideal American home. Cruz’s “McMansion,” exhibited at museums throughout the nation, is a small plastic model home placed in a box of mirrors. The image repeats into infinite space, epitomizing the monotony of traditional suburban landscapes.

Alternatively, citizens can come together to create new plans for their neighborhoods, Cruz said.

“The mythology of the American dream of ownership has become unsustainable,” Cruz said. “We need to rethink ownership, and rethink how a small house can become a small village.”

Cruz is well-known for his research on the Tijuana-San Diego border and most recently received the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award, which recognizes leaders’ efforts to improve economic opportunities. He is currently a public culture and urbanism professor at the University of California, San Diego, where he co-founded the Center for Urban Ecologies.

It sounds like Cruz defines McMansion in these ways: they are luxury homes, meaning they are expensive and have a lot of features, and they are monotonous (“cookie-cutter”) when placed with a bunch of similar houses in a neighborhood.

Here is a little more about Cruz’s 2008 work titled “McMansion Retrofitted” at the San Francisco Art Institute that emphasizes the spaces created in the suburbs by recent Mexican immigrants:

McMansion Retrofitted, 2008
Plastic model, pedestal with mirrors, and two videos
Courtesy of Estudio Teddy Cruz…

The areas of San Diego that have been most impacted by this nonconforming urbanism are concentrated in its first ring of suburbanization. At a moment when developers and city officials are still focusing on two main areas of development—on one end, the redevelopment and gentrification of the downtown area and, on the other, the increasingly expansive suburban sprawl resulting from an equally high-priced real estate project supported by an oil hungry infrastructure—it is the older neighborhoods of San Diego’s midcity that remain depressed and ignored. It is here in the first ring of suburbanization that immigrants have been settling in recent years, unable to afford the high rents of the downtown area’s luxury condos or the expensive “McMansions” of the new suburbs, though providing cheap labor for both.

Interesting – Cruz’s preferred neighborhoods sound quite vibrant and diverse. You can read more here about Cruz’s thoughts on how immigrants are changing neighborhoods in San Diego. Also, Cruz has in the past been involved with converting McMansions to multi-family housing (though this home is 70,000 square feet – more of a mansion or a castle).

Chinese purchase “monster homes” in New Zealand

McMansion type homes are not just restricted to the United States. This article describes what Chinese buyers are moving into in New Zealand:

When veteran architect Ron Sang drives around the outer fringes of Auckland near Albany or Botany, he can always spot a house built for a Chinese buyer.

“Generally it has a high portico on the outside – a big, high, ostentatious-looking porch, usually double height,” he says.

“Generally above the door you have a window and through the window you can see chandeliers. Inside the door you’ll see a big, ostentatiously curved stairway. They like to show wealth.”

These grand mansions on small suburban sections – what sociologist Paul Spoonley, adopting a Canadian term, calls “monster houses” – have become the stereotypical Chinese footprints in our cityscape.

While the homes described here are called “monster homes,” this sounds very similar to what Americans would call McMansions with the traits of a big entryway, garish appointments, the goal of impressing a buyer or visitor, and large homes on relatively small lots in suburban neighborhoods.

There is an interesting discussion later in the article about Chinese immigration to and residential patterns of Chinese residents in New Zealand.

Daily Herald highlights “immigrants moving to suburbs”

Focusing primarily on population growth in Aurora (read here about how Aurora is now the second largest city in Illinois), the Daily Herald says more immigrants are moving to the suburbs:

The trend of immigrants heading directly to American suburbs instead of starting in a major city intensified from 2000 to 2010 — and was one factor in Illinois’ 32.5 percent increase in Hispanic population in that period, according to recently released U.S. Census data.

Demographers say they aren’t just seeing it around Chicago. The same thing is happening around other major cities that have long been entry points for immigrants, such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

For many Hispanics in northern Illinois, Aurora supplanted Chicago as a cultural hub, and the growth has transformed smaller and smaller towns.

As I’ve noted before (see here as an example), this is quite a change for many American suburbs. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how the residents already living in these suburbs respond. Additionally, community leaders will have to respond as well. Based on some of the comments regarding this news story, it appears that there might be some people who are unhappy with these changes.

Texas population trends, the “demographic revolution,” and comparing Chicago and Houston

Census data regarding Texas has been released and there are several demographic changes underway:

1. Texas is growing, particularly compared to some other areas of the country:

The first results of the 2010 Census were released in December, showing that Texas’ population grew more than twice as fast as that of the nation as a whole, to 25.1 million.

As a result, the Lone Star State will gain four additional congressional seats, more than any other state.

2. The cities are growing as our minority populations:

Texas’ largest cities grew larger and more diverse, as did many suburban counties, part of what Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg calls “this accelerating demographic revolution.”

“The number of Anglos is falling more rapidly than one would expect, and the number of Latinos is rising more rapidly,” Klineberg said.

Latinos accounted for 35.3 percent of the total [population growth in Houston] — 41 percent in Harris County alone — while the number of Anglos dropped to 39.7 percent.

African-Americans made up 17.3 percent of the metro area’s population, while Asians made up 7 percent…

Statewide, the number of Anglos grew by just 4 percent, according to Rice sociologist Steve Murdock, a former director of the Census Bureau.

The number of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians grew exponentially more rapidly.

“I don’t think most of us expected the absolute amount of Anglo growth would be so low,” Murdock said.

3. Shedding light on my question from a few days ago about what Chicago’s population drop looks like compared to Houston’s growth or loss, here is the answer:

The city of Houston’s population grew to 2.1 million, up 7.5 percent over the past decade, and the metropolitan area — which now encompasses a 10-county area — surged to 5,946,800 people. The area’s incorporated cities are included in the count.

Chicago’s population dropped by 7 percent, but it remained well ahead of Houston at 2.7 million and No. 3 in the national rankings.

4. This will affect what Texas suburbs look like in the coming years:

And if the lessons of the 2010 Census are any indicator, the new residents will be a diverse lot.

“The idea of predominantly white suburbs” no longer holds true, Murdock said.

Texas’ growth has some similarities and differences compared to the rest of the country. The main difference is the overall population growth. The similarities are that the population growth is being driven by immigrant and minority populations and the urban areas, particularly the suburbs, are becoming more diverse.

Charlotte columnist suggests suburbs will face four problems

American suburbs contain the majority of United States residents (and this figure is likely to grow in the latest 2010 Census figures). And yet, there are a lot of questions about what the future of suburbs will be. A columnist/editor in Charlotte suggests suburbs will face four problems in the near future:

Demographics. Population trends favor urban-style, multifamily development. Gen Y’ers have a clear preference, at least for now, for urban living. Meantime, aging boomers will be selling houses and moving to condos or apartments. As illness and infirmity hit, many will have to give up driving. They’ll want walkable neighborhoods.

With the foreclosure crisis, the single-family home market will be sluggish for years. The nation is overbuilt on large-lot suburbia, and underbuilt in cities. The Urban Land Institute’s “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2011” has this advice to investors: “Avoid commodity, half-finished subdivisions in the suburban outer edge and McMansions; they are so yesterday.”

Fuel prices. Remember when $4-a-gallon gas walloped the economy in 2008? Now, gas prices are over $3 again. Gas prices are likely to keep rising, and already, transportation is the No. 2 cost for average U.S. households. With pay and jobs sinking, more people are likely to want to live where they can drive less.

Carbon footprint. If we’re to avoid creating even more destructive changes in the world’s climate (more droughts, floods, blizzards or heat waves) for our children and grandchildren to live with, more of us will need to live in tight-knit, walkable cities. It turns out city dwellers have a much smaller carbon footprint.

Suburbs on the brink. Although some first-ring suburbs are thriving, others aren’t. Many suburban neighborhoods are seeing rising poverty and crime, dead or dying malls and derelict strip centers and big-box stores. We can’t just abandon them to blight.

These are all possible issues. Some thoughts about each concern:

1. We will have to see what Generation Y and the aging Baby Boomers want in the long term. Will they want to move back to cities or will they be okay with denser suburban development?

2. Fuel prices are up and American driving is down. What happens if most people can access electric cars within 10 years?

3. Carbon footprints – are people convinced that they should change their personal, residential choices based on this evidence? Do Generation Y members choose to live in cities for this reason or for other reasons such as proximity to entertainment and culture.

4. Inner-ring suburbs are experiencing many of the issues that we once thought were limited to cities. Interestingly, a number of these issues are spreading beyond the inner-ring.

The columnist suggests we need to fight the suburban blight, marked by “separate municipalities outside a city, regardless of age or form…development with a specific pattern, typically built after 1945: single-use zones (stores separated from offices and housing, single-family houses apart from apartments); lots a quarter-acre or more; car dependent.”

There are several other issues that many suburban communities face:

5. Budget crunches with the economic crisis leading to a downturn in housing growth. Not much money is coming in and this will lead to cuts in services and amenities.

6. More suburbs reaching build-out and facing questions about whether denser development can fit within a community dominated by single-family homes.

6a. Will American suburbanites want denser development that may threaten their property values?

7. Increasing minority and immigrant populations that challenge the white majority that has dominate American suburban life. Stories like that of a controversy over a proposed mosque in DuPage County could become more common.

8. Of course, lots of empty houses or homes with reduced values (here or here). This limits people’s ability to move, the ability of communities to collect money, and builders and lenders to make money.

Population loss of 200,000 in Chicago from 2000 to 2010

Chicago has often been held up as an example of a Midwestern/Rust Belt city that managed to thrive in the 1990s and actually gain population. But new Census numbers show that the 2000s weren’t as kind to Chicago as the city’s population fell about 200,000. Here are a few of the key numbers and thoughts from the front-page article in the Chicago Tribune.

1. One of the key conclusions is that suburbanization continued during this past decade:

“I think these data from here and elsewhere in the country reflect that the United States has become a suburban nation,” said Scott W. Allard, a University of Chicago associate professor of social service administration.

This quote seems somewhat silly to me: the United States has been a suburban nation for decades now. It is not just a feature of the 2000s or the 1990s; a larger number of Americans have lived in suburbs (compared to cities or rural areas) for several decades.

2. The population growth of Chicago in the 1990s was helped by Latino immigration:

In the 2000 census, Latino immigration fueled a modest 4 percent population increase in Chicago, marking the city’s first decade of growth since the 1940s.

This time around Chicago’s Latino population was up just a little more than 3 percent. The white population was down a bit, while black numbers dropped nearly 17 percent.

Latinos and Asians accounted for the metropolitan area’s biggest population increases during the 2000s. In both cases, the biggest gains for those groups were in collar counties, not in the city or suburban Cook County.

So in the 2000s, the Latino population still increased but the Black population, in particular, declined in Chicago.

3. Minorities are living in places throughout the Chicago area:

“The biggest (change) is finding more minority people in different places in the metropolitan area where you didn’t used to find them,” said Jim Lewis, a demographer and senior program officer at Chicago Community Trust. “That and the loss of black population in the region and the state.”

The census information isn’t yet complete enough to track where blacks who left the city went, Lewis said. The figures indicate some have moved to suburbs, but a slight decline statewide suggests some African-Americans have been moving out of the region entirely, Lewis said.

This is also not surprising. This is a growing trend throughout the United States in recent decades: minorities and new immigrants are moving to the suburbs in increasing numbers.

4. The whole Chicago region did grow but the numbers were down compared to 1990s growth:

Carried by the collar counties, the population of the six-county Chicago region grew almost 3 percent during the decade, to 8.3 million. That’s down significantly from the region’s 11 percent growth in the 2000 census.

5. DuPage County is no longer a hotbed of growth as it was from 1950-1990. This likely due to the fact that there is little open land remaining for new subdivisions. The growth has moved on to locations further out from the city:

DuPage County, long the region’s epitome of booming suburbia, barely grew at all. The county lost about 45,000 white residents, which was offset by more African-American and Asian residents.

“You could say that Kane County is the DuPage County of yesterday,” said Rob Paral, a Chicago demographer. “The things we’re saying about Kane County today is what we said about DuPage County 20 years ago.”…

For the second decade, Aurora and Joliet experienced dramatic growth. Aurora (197,899) passed Rockford (152,871) to become the state’s second-biggest town, while Joliet moved up three places to No. 4, with 147,433 residents, nearly 40 percent more than in 2000.

So now we should sit back and wait to hear how various people, including politicians, talk about this new data. Overall, it mirrors a lot of national trends: people, including minorities and immigrants, continuing to move to the suburbs. This has some important implications: Illinois is losing a US House seat and Chicago could lose some status. What are the new figures for Houston, the city that trailed Chicago in the rankings for the largest US cities?  Does this mean Chicago is in trouble? Will Chicago enact a plan to draw people back to the city in the next decade?