State Watch

US cities grow at slowest pace since recession

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The largest cities in America are growing at their slowest rates since before the great recession, amid rising housing prices and a continued baby bust that has seen birth rates sink to their lowest levels in more than a generation.

New population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the 10 largest cities in the country added a combined total of just 31,000 residents over the last year, a growth rate of just over one tenth of one percent.

Among those largest cities, all of which have more than a million residents, three — New York, Chicago and San Jose, Calif., — actually lost residents in the last year. Los Angeles added 8,400 new residents, but the larger Los Angeles metropolitan area saw its overall population decline by a fraction.{mosads}

Phoenix and San Antonio each added more than 20,000 new residents, the fastest growth rates among big cities, and the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas each added residents at an annual rate of greater than one percent.

Since the beginning of the decade, when the last formal census was conducted, the 775 cities in the country with populations greater than 50,000 residents grew at an annual average rate of 7.5 percent.

Growth has been fastest in the 26 cities with populations between 500,000 and a million residents, which expanded at an average rate of 9.6 percent, but slowest in those cities with more than a million, which grew by 5.9 percent over the last eight years.

In the last year, those second-tier cities added a combined 152,000 people, an average growth rate of 0.8 percent.

Demographers point to several factors in the declining growth of big cities, from rising housing prices to declining birth rates and longer-term trends of Americans migrating out of the Northeast and into faster-growing states in the Sun Belt.

The largest cities where population growth has slowed in recent years are also home to some of the most expensive housing markets in the country. The median home price in San Jose sits at $1.1 million, up 14 percent in just the last year, according to the market research firm Clear Capital.

The median single family home sells for more than half a million dollars in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Oxnard, Calif. — all cities where growth was stagnant or where population declined in the last year.

The recession also delayed a generation of new workers from moving out of cities and into new homes in the suburbs. For the first time in American history, cities began growing faster than suburban communities, according to research from Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. With the recovery in full swing, that trend appears to be reversing, and suburbs are once again growing faster than the cities they surround.

“The annual growth rate for each of the ten largest cities peaked in the first half of the decade, between 2010 and 2015,” said Cheryl Russell, a demographer and author of the Demo Memo blog. “This was likely due to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, which drove people to larger cities for jobs. Behind the slowdown is the widespread economic recovery, with more job opportunities closer to home.”

At the same time, those who live in the largest cities in the country tend to be younger than those who live in small cities or urban areas — and younger Americans are having children at slower rates and later ages than did previous generations.

Just under 3.8 million babies were born in 2018, down from a record high of 4.3 million in 2007. The birth rate among women between the ages of 15 and 44, prime childbearing years, fell to a record low in 2018. Birth rates are down in 49 states, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

And Americans who move tend to favor the Sun Belt. Among the 25 cities that grew fastest between 2010 and 2018, all but three are in the Sun Belt. Those three exceptions are cities in the Pacific Northwest — Meridian, Idaho; Redmond, Wash.; and Bend, Ore.

Many of the cities that have seen their populations drop the fastest since 2010 are in Rust Belt states. Of the 15 cities where populations declined by more than a percentage point, five are in Illinois and three are in Gulf Coast states. The two largest cities to see their populations decline, Baltimore and St. Louis, suffered steep manufacturing job losses even before the recession took its toll.

Buckeye, Ariz. — a western suburb of Phoenix — grew faster than any other city in the country over the last year, at a rate of 8.5 percent. Seven of the 15 fastest-growing cities are Texas suburbs outside of Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Twelve cities added more than 10,000 residents last year, led by Phoenix and San Antonio. Fort Worth added nearly 20,000 new residents, and Seattle; Charlotte, N.C.; Austin; Jacksonville, San Diego and Denver all posted big gains.

Since the last census, 13 of the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas have grown by more than 10 percentage points. Orlando, Fla., has added nearly half a million residents, an increase of more than 20 percent, while Dallas and Houston have added the largest number of new residents at more than a million each.

Tags cities Demographics population growth

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