The Census Bureau today released new county and metro area level estimates for population. In my latest article for City Journal, I take a look at some of the trends. Here’s an excerpt:
Ninety-four metro areas, representing about a quarter of the nation’s total, lost population last year on a region-wide basis. This includes nine major metros of more than 1 million people. Among them were the three biggest: New York (down 19,474 people, or 0.10 percent), Los Angeles (down 7,223, or 0.05 percent), and Chicago (down 22,068, or 0.23 percent).
Among smaller metros, Boise, Idaho continues its streak as a red-hot market. It was the eighth-fastest-growing metro in the country last year and has added 113,860 people (up 18.47 percent) since the 2010 Census. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was the 11th-fasting-growing metro; Idaho Falls, the 20th. This strong growth, which includes a significant influx of coastal residents, will likely shift that state’s politics in the future. One resident said recently said that Idaho is becoming “the new Colorado.”
America is experiencing economic and demographic divergence, with some cities booming while a significant share of the nation’s metro areas shrink. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, 42 metro areas in the country lost population. Based on the midyear population estimates, 85 metro areas have shrunk since 2010. Not just cities, but entire regions are getting smaller. While population growth is not the sole, or perhaps even the best, measure of urban health, population loss can cause serious problems. It can, for example, lead to sprawl without growth, which depresses housing prices and causes home abandonment. And it causes fiscal stress for local governments because so many of their costs are fixed or semi-fixed, such as bond payments and the need to maintain infrastructure.
Click through to read the whole thing.
Chris Barnett says
To be clear, the distress of older municipalities with fixed costs is also related to their fixed boundaries. To the extent that core cities sprawl outward, they can mitigate some of the effects. See Columbus, OH, Houston, Phoenix, Denver.
For a few decades the city-county consolidations of Jacksonville, Nashville, Louisville, and Indy would have the same effect but as soon as growth jumps to the next county the effect ends.
Governing had a slightly different take, focusing more on the year-to-year change and declaring that growth is slowing in the boom areas and picking up in others:
The thought seems to be that maybe, finally, the cost-benefit analysis is falling in other cities’ favor as the San Franciscos of the world get so insanely expensive. Still, it seems however way you cut it is that it’s not a matter of the Columbuses and Indianapolises becoming the new boom towns. It’s that most of the country has a declining or slowing population growth rate.
Yet this is happening at the same time….https://www.cbsnews.com/news/real-estate-prices-premiums-for-urban-centers-outpacing-suburbs/
Population isn’t a particular good measure of economic success in an economy that is so profoundly and increasingly unequal. If we follow the money, instead of the people, we see a very different picture. We see the rich and skilled congregating in larger metros and in the central parts of those metros and the less skilled and less wealthy moving away from them. Even in St. Louis, for example, some of the highest paid jobs in finance, medicine, academia, and tech are concentrating in what St. Louisians call the ‘Central Corridor” while strip malls and plastic houses for moderate income people continue to appear in the far western fringes of the metro. Simply put, one high paid professional moving into an urban center is worth several moderate income people moving out in terms of demand for real estate and tax income for local government.
Chris Barnett says
But not in terms of demand for everyday retail goods and services (and thus retail/service jobs), except possibly higher-end dining and luxury goods. Hence, empty storefronts (and mustard stores) in Manhattan.
That has as much to do with Amazon as the shopping habits of the professional classes. Beyond that, storefronts in Manhattan and SF are empty because the rents are too high for independent businesses to make money, not because there’s no demand for the goods and services they might provide. These places are victims of their own success. The tax bases of local governments are what matter. They set the framework of what government can do. With all the increases in property values and payroll give NYC more to work with in sustaining the services and infrastructure that make its physically dense and professionally complex economy possible in the first place.
P Burgos says
I don’t know if you read Granola Shotgun or not, but his take on the empty Manhattan storefronts are that they are an example of “extend and pretend” accounting shenanigans. Basically, the owners of the building can cover the required payments to the bank, but they don’t want to report a loss on the property due to lower rents. So instead of taking the accounting loss, the owners keeps seeking a tenant at a high rent, and therefore buys themselves some time before taking the loss. The loss doesn’t just look bad, but can also shift the ratio of liabilities to assets in ways that could put the owner in violation of loan covenants, possibly triggering the necessity for repayment to the bank, and also then potentially impacting the bank’s balance sheet. So everyone is happy to pretend that the property still commands the old rents, because it buys time before some unpleasant things happen.
Yes, the owners can cover the cost because they’re making a fortune on the income from offices, apartments, and hotel rooms above the retail spaces.