America’s Biggest Metros Are Growing Much Faster Than Other Cities

April 1, 2014

By: Richard Florida
Via: The Atlantic Cities

Cyclists on a hike and bike trail in Austin, Texas, the large metro with the fastest population growth rate from 2010 to 2013 (Reuters/Julia Robinson).

America’s biggest metros are getting bigger, accounting for a disproportionate share of U.S population growth, according to new population estimates covering the period up to July 2013, released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

While most of the initial coverage of the report has focused on the year-long period from July 2012 through July 2013, I decided to look at the trends over the longer 2010-2013 period, which more or less coincides with the economic recovery. With the help of my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Charlotta Mellander, I examined the rate of population growth across five key categories of metro size. (See the chart below).

The pattern is striking. Large metros (those with more than a million people) registered the fastest growth by far, 3.2 percent. This explosive growth, in large part due to their capacity to attract immigrants, is considerably better than the 2.4 percent growth rate for the U.S. as a whole. Medium size metros, those with between 500,000 and a million people, grew just a bit faster than the nation as a whole, at 2.5 percent. Metros with between 350,000 and 500,000 people grew at slightly below the national rate, 2.3 percent, while metros with less than 250,000 people grew at just 1.7 percent. And the nation’s smallest geographic units, its 536 micropolitan areas, grew on average just 0.2 percent. More than half of them (286) saw their populations either decline or register no increase whatsoever between 2010 and 2013.

And when we zoom in on which of these specific metros that are gaining and losing population, it’s clear that America’s new geography is increasingly defined by the two pillars of recovery – knowledge and energy – that I initially defined in a piece for the Atlantic this fall.

Of large metros, Austin – a leading knowledge and tech hub – saw the largest percentage increase in population, growing by 9.7 percent between 2010 and 2013. Raleigh, an anchor of the North Carolina Research Triangle, grew 7.4 percent. Houston, San Antonio, Orlando, Denver, and Dallas each grew 6 percent or more.

Some of the fastest growing areas of the country were in the energy belt stretching from Texas up through the Dakotas. Midland and Odessa, Texas; Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota; and Casper, Wyoming all saw 2010 to 2013 population growth rates of 7 percent or higher. College towns like Auburn, Alabama; Provo, Utah; Durham, North Carolina; and Boulder, Colorado also registered gains at more than twice the national average.

On the flip side, Rustbelt metros continue to see population stagnate or in some cases even decline slightly. Cleveland and Buffalo saw the slowest population growth of large metros, losing small numbers of people, while population virtually stagnated in Detroit, Providence, Pittsburgh, Hartford and Rochester. Pittsburgh and Cleveland saw small population losses in the more recent 2012-13 period.

Once booming Sunbelt metros, where populations exploded alongside suburban sprawl in previous decades, saw their population growth slow substantially from 2010 to 2013. Las Vegas grew by 85 percent in the 1990s, making it America’s fastest growing, and more than 40 percent in the 2000s. But Vegas saw its population growth slow to 3.9 percent between 2010 and 2013, placing it 75th among all metros. Phoenix, which grew by 45 percent in the 1990s (and where population growth topped 4 percent a year for nearly four decades), saw its population growth rate decline to 4.9 percent in 2010-13, leaving it 49th of all metros.

All told, 40 percent of U.S metros (156 of 383) saw their populations grow faster than the national average, while 51 metros grew at twice the national rate, and 13 metros grew at three times the national rate. Seventy-two metros lost population over this period, most of them smaller metros in the Rustbelt and old South.

America continues to see population growth around the twin pillars of its knowledge-energy economy. Many hard hit industrial metros of the Rustbelt continue to stagnate or decline, and the growth of the sprawling, housing-driven metros of the Sunbelt has slowed considerably from the boom years.

Most of all, size clearly seems to matter. America’s biggest metros registered not only the largest absolute increases but also the largest percent gains.

Trends in Higher Education

November 4, 2013

Via: The College Board

Two new studies prepared by the College Board explore the benefits of higher education. These studies not only examine the payoffs to individuals and society, but address the challenges in obtaining higher education, as well as the disparity of achievement and outcomes across different demographics.

Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society documents the ways in which both individuals and society as a whole benefit from increased levels of education. The report examines differences in the earnings and employment patterns of U.S. adults with different levels of education. It compares health-related behaviors, reliance on public assistance programs, civic participation, and indicators of the well-being of the next generation. Financial benefits are easier to document than nonpecuniary benefits, but the latter may be as important to students themselves, as well as to the society in which they participate. In addition to the financial and nonpecuniary benefits of higher education, Education Pays 2013 examines the increases and the persistent disparities across demographic groups in college participation and completion. Read more . . .

How College Shapes Lives: Understanding the Issues builds on the information presented in Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society by discussing some of the ways in which the payoff of postsecondary education can be measured and providing insights into why there is confusion about that payoff, despite strong evidence. The report focuses on the variation in outcomes across individuals, helping to clarify that the existence of a high average payoff and the reality of significant benefits for most students are not inconsistent with disappointing outcomes for some. The aim of this report is to provide background and context for readers to help them become more active and constructive participants in discussions of the role of higher education in the United States. Read more . . .

Why the Size of Your City’s Middle Class Matters Even if You’re Not In It

September 6, 2013

By: Emily Badger
Via: The Atlantic Cities

Earlier this summer, economists at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley released a widely discussed study showing that a child’s chances of escaping poverty depends heavily on the luck (or misfortune) of where he or she lives. Some U.S. cities seem to create, or enable, more opportunity than others for economic mobility. A poor child raised in Atlanta faces much longer odds of growing up to be middle-class than a poor child raised in Salt Lake City.

So what’s the difference between Salt Lake City and Atlanta? The authors of the original study highlighted a few strong correlations: Metropolitan areas with more two-parent households, higher quality schools, and lower racial and economic segregation were associated with higher economic mobility. But researchers at the Center for American Progress have taken up the same dataset used in that study and now added another wrinkle: Among the 100 largest metro regions in the country, places with higher economic mobility also tend to have a larger middle class.

In a chart, this is what that relationship looks like:

As authors Ben Olinksy and Sasha Post note, the size of a region’s middle class is strongly linked to the likelihood that a poor child may grow up to join it:

“Specifically, the data suggest that for every percentage-point increase in the share of a region’s population who fall between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile of the national household income distribution, children who begin at the 25th percentile of the income distribution will climb up nearly half a percentile. So if one city’s middle class is 10 percentage points larger than another’s, we would expect that its low-income children will grow up to earn incomes that put them 5 percentiles higher in the national distribution.

For example, imagine a city in which 40 percent of the population is in the middle class. According to the data, a child who begins in the 25th income percentile could expect to reach the 37th percentile when he or she turns 30. But if the city’s middle class were larger, say, 50 percent instead of 40 percent, then a low-income child could expect to end up in the 42nd percentile, making around $26,000 a year instead of $22,000 a year. That’s almost $4,000 in additional income—a 17 percent increase.”

It’s important to note that the causal relationship here is unclear, as Jim Tankersley does a good job of explaining at the Washington Post. Does the middle class get bigger because economic mobility allows previously poor people to join those ranks? Or do poor people have higher economic mobility because a broad middle class drives opportunity for everyone? A large middle class, for instance, might support a stronger school system, which in turn benefits the lower-income students who attend it.

This study can’t answer this key causal question. But it does suggest that if you’re poor and raising a child, you might be better off in the cities at the upper right-hand corner of that distribution shown above.

There are also some interesting caveats in the analysis:

“Finally, one troubling finding is that few regions of the country with large African American populations have high mobility. In light of this observation and the fact that African Americans have much less economic mobility than other groups, we checked to see whether race might limit the relationship between the middle class and mobility. The results are concerning: In regions with large African American populations, increases in the middle class’s size are linked to smaller increases in mobility than in other regions. This suggests that the middle class’s influence on mobility may be dampened by racial inequities, both social and economic. The size of the middle class is a powerful predictor of mobility, yet its reach is limited by our nation’s troubling legacy of racial inequity.”

This last finding suggests a spatial component to economic mobility (a theme the original Harvard and Berkeley study yielded is as well). If your metropolitan area has a large middle class, but many poor people are racially segregated far away from it – from middle-class schools, middle-class job opportunities, middle-class neighborhoods – how will they reap any benefits associated with it?
Top image: hafakot/

Millennials Genuinely Think They Can Change The World And Their Communities

July 6, 2013

By: Ariel Schwartz
Via: Fast Company

Far from the jaded, disconnected image you might have of them, 18- to 30-year-olds have a bright view of the future, and are willing to work to make the world better.

Young people in the U.S. care less about the environment and are more optimistic than their counterparts in other countries. They’re more concerned about the economy than anything else, but they still believe their quality of life is better than their parents’ generation. And through it all, the vast majority believe they can make a difference in their local communities.

This is all according to a survey of 12,000 millennials in 27 countries (ages 18 to 30) from Telefónica that probed respondents on their feelings about technology, education, personal freedom, and more. The overarching message: this generation has a lot of hope, in spite of the many global crises staring them down.

“I have this image of people between 18 and 30 years old as isolated from the world, not having relationships with each other. I was surprised to see how they see themselves as really integrated in the world, in their own communities,” says Alfredo Timermans, CEO of Telefónica International, U.S.A.

The study looked in detail at millennials all over the world: North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and Africa. Here are some of the highlights.

• American millennials are worried about the effects of globalization; 58% believe that globalization only generates opportunities for select individuals. And 76% think outsourcing is bad for the U.S. economy.

• Millennials all over the world can agree on the value of technology: 83% think technology has made it easier to get a job, and 87% say that technology has made it easier to overcome barriers. At the same time, however, 62% think technology has widened the gap between rich and poor.

• In most of the world, millennials are more concerned about the economy than all other issues. But in the U.S. they’re the most concerned: 46% of respondents think the economy is the most pressing issue, while 12% think education is the biggest problem. In Western Europe, people are concerned about the economy (34%) and social inequality (15%). In the Middle East and Africa, respondents are most worried about terrorism (19%) and political unrest (13%).

• Here’s something else millennials can agree on: problems with government. In every region surveyed, most respondents said that the government doesn’t reflect their values and beliefs.

• Overall, millennials believe the best way to make a difference in the world is to improve education, followed by protecting the environment and eliminating poverty.

• An impressive 62% of respondents believe they can make a local difference, and 40% think they can make a global difference. But in most of the world–outside parts of Europe and Asia–the majority of millennials believe they can make a global difference.

“There’s a sense of optimism about this young generation. We are really optimistic about the values of society in the future, the ability to be making a difference in the rest of the world,” says Timermans.

Check out the full survey here.

In Houston, America’s Diverse Future Has Already Arrived

July 2, 2013

By: Elise Hu
Via: NPR

All this week, NPR is taking a look at the demographic changes that could reshape the political landscape in Texas over the next decade — and what that could mean for the rest of the country.

To see the speed of demographic change in Texas, look no further than its largest city — Houston. Only 40 percent of the city’s population is non-Hispanic white, and by a Rice University count, it’s the most racially and ethnically diverse city in America.

“Houston is an immigrant magnet,” says Glenda Joe, a Chinese-Texan community organizer whose extended family came to Houston in the 1880s.

“Texas looks like me. I’m half-Chinese; I’m half-Irish,” she says. “I also do business; I work with universities; I also ride horses. That’s what Texas is.”

At about 35 percent of the population, Latinos make up the second-biggest group in Houston after non-Hispanic whites or Anglos, according to Census numbers. But Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing group — doubling between the 1990 and 2010 census to about 7 percent.

“There is no majority group here, not even close,” says Michael Emerson, a Rice University sociologist who studies Houston’s demographic change. He and his research partners put together the 2012 analysis that gave Houston the title of most diverse metropolitan area in America. If you look at the four major ethnic groups — Anglo, black, Asian and Latino — all have substantial numbers in Houston, with no one group dominating. It comes closer to having an equal balance of each group than you would find in New York or Los Angeles.

The city’s transformation to an international megalopolis happened quickly, and only within the past few decades. As the metro area shot to nearly 6 million people, 93 percent of all that growth was non-white.

“Houston runs about 10, 15 years ahead of Texas, 30 years ahead of the U.S., in terms of ethnic diversity and immigration flows,” Emerson says. “So it is fundamentally transformed in a way that all of America shall transform.”

Jobs fuel the transformation. The energy industry remains a huge player, but there’s also the Texas Medical Center, burgeoning biotech and a bustling shipping port. Despite crippling humidity, long commutes and a reputation for refineries, Houston’s cheap land, affordable homes and low barriers to doing business have lured immigrants from all over.

“You are here to make your fortune; you are here to move ahead in the world. You are about making things happen. There’s no way that you could be a leader here in this community and not recognize that,” says Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is a minority among politicians. She’s the only female mayor among the top 10 most populous cities, and she’s one of the only openly gay politicians, period. And she’s learned a few lessons about governing a place where different cultures combine.

“Too often what happens in a state capital or in Washington is that it is about parties and partisanship, not about the practical realities of running something. Cities have to run,” Parker says.

For her, running the place means embracing the sociological situation. Houston is remarkably practical that way. Just ask seventh-generation Chinese-Houstonian Glenda Joe.

“It’s inexorable. The change in terms of leadership, the change in terms of how we look — it’s inexorable,” Joe says.

The 10 Fittest Cities In America

June 25, 2013

By: Ben Schiller
Via: Fast Company

If you’re looking for a healthy place to live, Minneapolis-St. Paul is probably a good choice. Despite heavy snow in the winter, it has a relatively high level of exercise–76% of people say they worked out in the last 30 days–and a high number of sports facilities (including the highest number of baseball diamonds per capita: 5.1 per 10,000 people).

The American Fitness Index, published by the American College of Sports Medicine, factors in both the health of the population (health behaviors, chronic disease, etc.) as well as environmental indicators–like recreational facilities, and whether people bike and walk to work–into its rankings. Twenty-six health and physical activity experts decided on the categories. The data is from the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Census, among other sources.

The 10 fittest cities:
• Minneapolis-St. Paul
• Washington D.C
• Portland, Oregon
• San Francisco
• Denver
• Boston
• Sacramento, California
• Seattle
• Hartford, Connecticut
• San Jose, California

A.C.S.M. sees the goal of the index as helping to “improve the health of the nation by promoting active lifestyles by supporting local programming to develop a sustainable, healthy community culture.”

Minneapolis-St. Paul, which also won in 2012 and 2011, scored 78.2 out of 100 total points (up from 76.4 last year). Washington D.C scored 77.7, while Portland came in at 69.8. They all have relatively low rates of diabetes and heart disease, and higher spending on things like parks and tennis courts.

San Francisco (68.7), Denver, Colorado (68.1), Boston (67.1), Sacramento, California (66.8), Seattle (66.7), Hartford, Connecticut (66.6), and San Jose, California (66.4) round out the top 10. (Several, including Seattle and Sacramento, actually lost ground from last year’s survey).

The bottom three are Oklahoma City (31.2), Detroit (33.6), and San Antonio, Texas (31.2). Oklahoma City can blame its score on a relatively high level of smoking and obesity.

The ranking looks at the 50 most populous metropolitan regions, including suburbs as well as the area within city limits (“Metropolitan Statistical Areas“). So “New York,” for example, also includes parts of New Jersey.

Want to check out the full rankings? The fitness index web site has a nice interactive “quick view” feature here.