2010 Census figures show growing urban population

In the last 110 years, the United States has become very urbanized: in 1900, 60.4% of the population was rural and 29.6% urban while in 1990, those numbers changed to 24.8% rural and 75.2% urban. New 2010 Census figures show that this trend has continued:

The U.S. population grew by 27 million over the decade, to 308 million. But growth was unevenly distributed. Metropolitan areas, defined as the collection of small cities and suburbs that surround an urban core with at least 50,000 people, accounted for most of the gain, growing 10.8% over the decade to 257.7 million people.

Rural areas, meanwhile, grew just 4.5% to 51 million. Many regions—from the Great Plains to the Mississippi Delta to rural New England—saw population declines. About 46% of rural counties lost population in the decade, including almost 60% of rural counties that aren’t adjacent to a metro area, according to an analysis of Census data by Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Based on these 2010 figures of 308 million US residents (though the population now is just over 311 million), that means 83.67% of the US lives in metropolitan areas. I still want to see the breakdown of urban areas: how much of the population now lives in suburbs (50.0% of Americans in 2000 compared to 30.3% percent in central cities – page 33 of this report) compared to cities. It is interesting to note that rural areas have still grown in population even as nearly half of rural counties lost population. Where exactly are the rural growth spots and are these exurbs that will soon become part of a metropolitan region or tourist spots?

(The rest of the article talks about how the population continues to grow more in the South and West. Read more about that here.)

The new Congress marked by more suburban, rural, and small town members?

Joel Kotkin continues to make the case that the political changes in the new Congress are marked by a city/suburb split. Kotkin explains this shift:

This contrasts dramatically with the last Congress. Virtually its entire leadership — from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on down — represented either the urban core or affluent, close-in suburbs of large metropolitan areas. Powerful old lions like Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) of Harlem, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) of Los Angeles and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) of Newton, an affluent, close-in Boston suburb, roamed…

The new House leaders are, for the most part, from small towns, suburbs and interior cities. Most GOP pickups came from precisely these regions — particularly in the South and Midwest.

Kotkin then goes on to talk about the possible consequences of the change in leadership:

This change in geography also suggests a shift in the economic balance of power. The old Congress owed its allegiance largely to the “social-industrial” complex around Washington, Wall Street, public-sector unions, large universities and the emergent, highly subsidized alternative-energy industry. In contrast, the new House leaders largely represent districts tied to more traditional energy development, manufacturing and agriculture.

The urban-centered environmental movement’s much-hyped talk of “green jobs,” so popular in Obama-dominated Washington, is now likely to be supplanted by a concern with the more than 700,000 jobs directly related to fossil fuel production. Greater emphasis may be placed on ensuring that electric power rates are low enough to keep U.S. industry competitive.

The Obama administration’s land-use policies will also be forced to shift. Sums lavished on “smart growth” grants to regions, high-speed rail and new light-rail transit are likely to face tough obstacles in this Congress.

Kotkin is not alone in discussing these potential consequences: the Infrastructurist has been tracking for a while how Republican control might threaten plans for high-speed rail, infrastructure, and green programs.

But I wonder if suburban/exurban/more rural Congressmen will really express these kinds of political sensibilities in Congress. Traditionally, local suburban politics has been marked by a lack of partisanship (with many municipal races not involving the two major parties) and an emphasis on issues like keeping property taxes low, ensuring property values, and keeping crime rates low. Do these concerns translate to a national level where everything becomes a political skirmish and politicians consider the national budget, defense spending, entitlement programs, and so on? Can Kotkin or others point to a current or past member of Congress who has exemplified a suburban or exurban approach to national government that is distinct from an urban approach?