Suburban sunbelt population soars again

Was the economic crisis just a blip in the ongoing growth of the suburban Sunbelt?

The unavoidable takeaway from the Census report is that Americans have resumed the westward suburban ho of the early 21st century, before the Great Recession came crashing down. None of the 20 fastest-growing metros are in the northeast. Rather, they’re in the sunny crescent that swoops from the Carolinas down through Texas and up into the west toward the Dakotas. Americans are back to sun-worshipping…

The story of immigration is slightly different. The list of cities with the greatest foreign-born influxes since 2010 includes some of these warm metros, like Houston and Dallas, but also filling out the top-ten metros for immigrants are areas where more native-born Americans are leaving, like New York (#1), Los Angeles (#2), Boston (#7), and Chicago (#9).

But the upshot seems to be that even as the recession sparked interest in an urban revival, the metros that seem to be winning the population lottery are suburbs of warm metros—including many of the very Sun Belt areas that seemed devastated by the recession.

Suburban sprawl continues…

And who are the people moving to big cities?

This is a tight feedback loop. The densest cities tend to be the most educated cities, which are also the richest cities, and often the biggest cities. They’re gobbling up a disproportionate share of college grads. And, as a result, they are becoming richer, denser, and more educated.

Both patterns can be going on at the same time: large numbers of Americans continuing to move to the Sunbelt suburbs while a good portion of educated young adults moving to hot neighborhoods in the biggest cities.

Millennials move into suburbs and less dense big cities and other urban population shifts

A new report from Trulia looks at where millennials and Baby Boomers moved as well as population growth in cities:

Extrapolating from the census data, a separate report from San Francisco-based real estate research firm Trulia Inc. showed where different age groups lived in 2013. Contrary to popular thought, millennials – Americans 20 to 34 years old – actually moved more into big-city suburbs and lower-density cities rather than dense urban areas. The three fastest growing millennial metropolitan areas were Peabody, Massachusetts, a town north of Boston, Colorado Springs, Colorado and San Antonio.

Americans 50 to 69 years old also flocked most to the “second quartile of counties,” wrote Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko, or big city suburbs and lower density cities. The fastest growing areas for baby boomers were Austin, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Dallas – all places that already have high concentrations of young people. In fact, Austin has the highest share of millennials than any other large metropolitan area, the Trulia report showed…

“The trend in the past year was that boomer growth [took place] in millennials’ favorite places,” Kolko says.

The population of the youngest Americans, or those ages 5 and younger, grew fastest in big cities like Washington, D.C. and New York. Frey has studied demographic changes in New York and says since 2010, there’s been a growth in the under 5 population in all of the boroughs except for Staten Island.

The biggest surprise here seems to be that more millennials moved to “big-city suburbs & lower-density cities.” At the same time, the population growth differences between the four quartiles of counties are not that large – the analysis shows roughly 0.2% differences.

Another note: the South and West continue to lead the way (all those less dense cities due to different zoning rules, annexation policies, and waves of development) in this analysis with the occasional city from elsewhere sneaking in occasionally.

The difficulties in addressing poverty in the Atlanta suburbs

Here is a look at how poverty is being addressed in the Atlanta suburbs:

This is not an indictment of Cobb County in particular. Rather, what’s happening in Cobb is a microcosm of the dilemma facing suburbs nationwide: a rapid spike in the number of poor people in what once were the sprawling beacons of American prosperity. Think of it as the flip side of the national urban boom: The poverty rate across all U.S. suburbs doubled in the first decade of the millennium—even as America’s cities are transforming in the other direction, toward rising affluence and hipster reinvention. If the old story of poverty in America was crumbling inner cities and drug-addled housing projects, the new story is increasingly one of downscale strip malls and long bus rides in search of ever-scarcer jobs. We can’t understand what’s working in America’s cities unless we also look at what’s not working in the vast suburbs that surround them.

And there’s a lot about Atlanta’s suburbs that isn’t working. Suburban poverty exploded here between 2000 and 2011, rising by 159 percent. Now, 88 percent of the region’s poor people live in suburbs. On its face, there is nothing remarkable about that statistic; after all, metro Atlanta is huge (8,300 square-miles, about the size of Massachusetts), and its population keeps rising (it’s now almost 6 million, equivalent to the population of Missouri). But fewer than 10 percent of us live in the city of Atlanta itself. So it would stand to reason that most poor people are suburbanites; most metro Atlantans are suburbanites, period…

For suburban Atlanta, as in suburbia nationwide, this shift presents some vexing problems. Designed around a car-centric culture of single-family homes clustered in cul-de-sacs served by strip centers and shopping malls, and fueled by jobs reached by commuting to downtown or suburban office parks, suburbs like Cobb County have struggled to respond to denser populations, increased congestion and, as a result of the 2008 recession, a decline in the middle-class jobs that made it all possible. Suburban Atlanta voters, including in Cobb County, have consistently rejected mass transit that might relieve their car dependency. And county zoning ordinances have continued to favor single-family housing over denser development, exacerbating the problem for the poor who are clustered there in ever greater numbers…

Here’s the most complicated problem with poverty in the suburbs: It’s almost invisible. There are 86,000 people in Cobb County who live below the poverty level. But you could live in Cobb your whole life and never see them, or at least not knowingly. Cobb County covers 339 square miles and is home to 717,000 people. Its poor residents can be lost in the crowd—and lost in all that space.

An interesting look at the myriad problems that makes addressing suburban poverty harder: lack of transportation options besides cars, limited social services that tend to be spread out, race and class differences that get reified through political and economic decisions, and limited recognition of suburban poverty.

Just a note: we need more sociological research on suburban poverty and suburban patterns in Sunbelt metropolitan regions that may be less segregated than Northern cities but are also more sprawling.

Chicago’s annexations through the years

Watch Chicago expand through annexation here.

Maps at the Chicago History Museum show that in 1837, city borders were:

  • Lake Michigan to the east
  • North Avenue to the north
  • 22nd Street to the south
  • Wood Street to the west

In the Great Fire of 1871, much of the city was destroyed. The most significant annexation in Chicago history came almost two decades later, in 1889.

That’s when Hyde Park, Lake View and Jefferson and Lake townships became part of Chicago. The annexations were the result of an election and added 125 miles and 225,000 people to the city, making it the nation’s largest city by square mileage at the time…

“One of the reasons annexation stops […] in the early 1900s is because the city really doesn’t want to annex any more territory,” said Chicago historian Ann Keating, who wrote Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide and co-edited The Encyclopedia of Chicago. “Our vision is suburban communities wouldn’t want to join in to the city, but the fact of the matter is the city kind of hits a point where they can no longer extend services.”

This is a common trait of most American big cities: they started relatively small and then annexed quite a bit of territory. However, Chicago’s experience mirrors cities in the North which essentially couldn’t annex much past 1900. While suburbs prior to this point had been willing to join the city to gain from the big city’s services and the city’s prestige, by around 1900 these local services were cheaper to build themselves and cities had different reputations. But, annexation was still quite common for Sunbelt cities, most of whom were able to continue to annex through the 20th century. David Rusk tracks these annexations in his book Cities Without Suburbs. Here is one chart:

RuskCitiesWithoutSuburbsTable1.5Quite a big difference which Rusk argues allowed Sunbelt cities to capture more of the suburban growth and benefit from a wider tax base and more diverse population.

The American cities with the highest percentage of households without a car

As part of a look at the connection between education levels and car ownership, Derek Thompson includes this information about which American cities have lower rates of car ownership:

Here are the non-car household rates in 30 large U.S. cities (the national average is in RED):

Source: Michael Sivak, University of Michigan

What do NYC, DC, Boston, and Philadelphia have in common? For one, they’re old, crowded cities with good (okay, decent) public transit. “The five cities with the highest proportions of households without a vehicle were all among the top five cities in a recent ranking of the quality of public transportation,” Michael Sivak, director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation at Michigan, told WSJ.

That might be the most important, variable, but it wasn’t the first thing this graph reminds me of. When I see New York, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, the first thing I think is: These are all the classic, even cliche, magnets for elite college graduates. 

So I compared the cities’ non-car ownership rates to their share of bachelor’s-degree holders. And it turns out there is a statistically significant relationship between being college-dense and car-light.

Then follows a correlation chart – but no number or measure of the significance of the relationship! If one is going to claim a statistically significant relationship, more information needs to be provided like the correlation coefficient and the significance level.

That said, larger Sunbelt cities don’t come out well, nor do smaller Northern or Midwestern cities. All together, these cities are more likely to have sprawl and not have the kind of dense downtowns like Manhattan or the Loop that supports a lot of workers traveling to a single area each day. There was less historical incentive in these communities to build mass transit (outside of commuter rail) and such services, particularly subways or light rail, are quite expensive to build today in more sprawling conditions.

The continued rise of the Sunbelt: Florida’s population to pass New York’s

One of the largest demographic shifts in American history continues: Florida’s population will soon surpass that of New York.

When the 2013 census results are revealed on Monday, Florida is expected to edge out New York as the third most populous state. The population gap between New York and Florida has been closing quickly over the past few years, but the ranking swap could still signify changes ahead for both states.

According to The New York Times, the new census figures reflect the trend of migrants born outside the U.S. making their way toward sunnier states, like California, Texas — the top two most populous states — and Florida. The Times reports that roughly 50,000 New Yorkers move to Florida each year, compared with only 25,000 Floridians who come to New York. Though New York state’s population is still growing, it is far outpaced by Florida growth. And upstate New York is largely economically stagnant, while cities like Tampa and Jacksonville flourish…

A larger population can dictate a state’s future, in addition to simply reflecting its current circumstance. It means a larger chunk of the federal government’s money and more political representation. The New York Times explains:

The changing population pattern could have many practical and political implications, including diminished congressional delegations, a setback New York already suffered in 2010 — the year of the last decennial census count — when the state lost two districts, while Florida gained two seats. Census data also inform how billions of dollars in federal funding and grants are divvied up among the states, for things like highway planning and construction, public aid for housing and health care and education programs.

It is interesting to see the attention these estimates are getting. This population shift to the Sunbelt has been happening for decades now, spurred on by being closer to immigration sources (the 1965 Immigration Act helped increase immigration from Mexico and Latin America), warmer weather, more affordable housing, and economic growth. But, I suspect there are some other reasons in particular to point out the closeness in population of New York and Florida:

1. New York, particularly New York City, is seen as an American center of power (economic, political, cultural, social). Florida is seen as a place where people go on vacation or to retire. Yet, the population shift suggests Florida might be able to grow in power and influence while a relative population decline suggests New York has already peaked.

2. A conservative-liberal divide between the two states. For example, the New York Times article cited above mentions the stand your ground law in Florida as well as the implications for Congress. The horrors that might ensue if the people of Florida get to help dictate policy for the people of New York City…

3. It is more difficult to understand larger population trends without having these kinds of comparisons. In other words, we could say the Sunbelt population has grown 15% over 10 years while the population in the Northeast has grown 4% over the same period but these are big areas and vague numbers. Being able to pit two states against each other makes the data more understandable and produces a better news story.

Atlanta Braves bucking the baseball trend by moving to the suburbs

While the new baseball stadiums of recent decades tend to be located in urban neighborhoods, the Atlanta Braves made an announcement that they are moving 15 miles outside of the city:

On Monday, team president John Schuerholz and two other executives told reporters that the franchise will build a new stadium in Cobb County, roughly 15 miles away from Turner Field, and begin playing there in 2017, after their current lease expires, with construction to start in mid-2014.

That’s a shock, in that the Braves have only been playing in Turner Field — which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics — since 1997. Such a move will make it the first of the 24 major league ballparks to open since 1989 to be replaced, and buck the trend of teams returning to urban centers. The proposed park is in the suburbs and closer to the geographic center of the team’s ticket-buying fan base, a much higher percentage of which happens to be white. US Census figures from 2010 put Fulton County at 44.5 percent white and 44.1 percent black, while Cobb County is 62.2 percent white and 25.0 percent black…

So instead of sinking $350 million into fixes to modernize Turner, the Braves are spending $200 million for a new park, with much of that cost likely to be covered by the development of the surrounding area and the sale of naming rights. Notably, Turner is one of just eight venues that doesn’t have such a deal in place. According to a New York Times piece from July, the Atlanta Hawks get $12 million a year for the naming rights to their venue, currently known as Philips Arena. The largest baseball deal is that of the Mets for Citi Field ($21 million per year), though the dropoff from that figure to the second-largest, Houston’s Minute Maid Park ($7.4 million), is steep.

The new venue is at the intersection of Interstates 75 and 285, said to be a major traffic snarl, “the place so congested we Cobb Countians know to avoid if at all possible,” as the Journal-Constitution‘s Mark Bradley described it. The county has resisted the expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) into its domain since its inception in 1971, so it’s not served by light rail, and while the team claims “significantly increased access to the site” via Home of the Braves, it offers no specifics on the matter.

While this goes against ballpark trends, it also fits some other trends:

1. Suburban expansion in Sunbelt cities. Many of the new ballparks have been built in Northern cities, Rustbelt places where downtown development is needed. Think Camden Yards in Baltimore or Jacobs Field in Cleveland or PNC Park in Pittsburgh. In other words, Sunbelt cities have different settlement patterns including beltway highways around the city and not that dense of an urban core to begin. Turner Field wasn’t exactly in an urban neighborhood and other reports suggested it would have been quite difficult to expand parking and nearby amenities.

2. Matching ballparks with nearby development projects that can also bring in money. A baseball team can be profitable but developing nearby real estate can be even more profitable. For example, look at the deals suburbs tried to make with the Cubs earlier this year: you can have land and access to transportation and we would be more than happy to develop land around your ballpark. And the Cubs are trying to do this with Wrigley Field as well by developing nearby properties into a hotel to increase their revenue streams.

3. It sounds like Cobb County is giving the Braves a good deal by financing some of the project. This is a longer trend: companies, sports or otherwise, moving to where they can get a good tax deal. This has happened with urban ballparks – cities have financed parts of those stadiums because they can’t afford to let the team out of the city. In this particular case, it sounds like the Braves thought they got a better suburban deal whereas other cities have pushed harder to keep teams with incentives.

I suspect this is a more isolated case of ballpark construction in the suburbs.