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America’s Fastest-Growing Cities Since The Recession
Joel Kotkin / newgeography / June 18, 2013
It was widely reported that the Great Recession and subsequent economic malaise changed the geography of America. Suburbs, particularly in the Sun Belt, were becoming the “new slums” as people flocked back to dense core cities.
Yet an analysis of post-2007 population trends by demographer Wendell Cox in the 111 U.S. metro areas with more than 200,000 residents reveals something both very different from the conventional wisdom and at the same time very familiar. Virtually all of the 20 that have added the most residents from 2007 to 2012 are in the Old Confederacy, the Intermountain West and suburbs of larger cities, notably in California. The lone exception to this pattern is No. 15 Portland. The bottom line: growth is still fastest in the Sun Belt, in suburban cities and lower-density, spread out municipalities.
The No. 1 city on our list, New Orleans, fits this picture to a degree as a quintessentially Southern city, but it’s a bit of an anomaly. Its fast growth is partially a rebound effect from its massive population loss after Katrina, but is also a function of a striking economic revival that I have seen firsthand as a consultant in the area.
Since 2007 New Orleans’ population has grown 28% to 370,000. Many are newcomers who came, at least initially, to rebuild the city. But the city is still way below the 2002 population of 472,000, much less its high of 628,000 in 1960.
New Orleans is one of six cities where the population of the core has grown more in total numbers than the surrounding suburbs. (The other five are New York; San Jose, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio.) This is also a product of the fact that, when the Greater New Orleans region began to recover, the return to the suburban regions, for the most part, came before that to the city.
Nothing in the data, however suggests a revival of the older, dense “legacy” cities that were typical of the late 19th century and pre-war era. Most of the fastest-growing big cities since 2007 are of the sprawling post-1945 Sun Belt variety, including Charlotte, N.C. (No. 4); Ft. Worth, Texas (No. 6); Austin, Texas, (10th); El Paso, Texas (11th); Raleigh, N.C. (12th); and Oklahoma City (18th). Some of the fastest-growers are also outside the major metropolitan areas, such as No. 5 Bakersfield in California’s Central Valley, the North Carolina cities of Greensboro and Durham, (9th and 14th, respectively), and Corpus Christi, Texas (16th).