The Antiplanner has a good piece refuting one of the key articles of faith among urban planners – that is, that people are “coming back” to the city. Recently, a burst of news stories came out saying that city growth was outpacing suburban growth. Planners and Smart Growth politicians see this as validation of their command-and-control doctrine: through regulatory overkill they have made the urban core more attractive and people are voting with their feet.
Except they’re not. The Antiplanner shows the glowing news reports look at percentage of growth rather than actual population growth. This is perhaps significant as a long term change if this pattern holds, but as it stands it is rather insignificant. For the 51 largest metropolitan areas, there was a 1.03 percent increase in central cities versus 0.93 percent in the suburbs from 2010 to 2011. In terms of actual growth, ten times as many people moved into the suburbs (757,078) than into the central cities (69,289). Further, only 8 of the 51 metros actually saw urban cores grow more, in real terms, than the ‘burbs.
Wendell Cox also provides a detailed breakdown of the data here. The bottom line is, more people prefer lower density places away from the center of things.