Wednesday, 16 of April of 2014

Another Smart Growth Myth Busted

It is said by urban boosters and Smart Growth advocates that there is a renaissance of central cities going on all around the country.  That the suburbs are yesterday; downtowns are today … and tomorrow.  Indeed, for a sliver of the population – namely, young singles – some downtowns in some metros are realizing some growth.  But this is the exception rather than the rule.  For other cohorts, the trend is in the opposite direction despite what Smart Growthers claim.

At Forbes, Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox have a useful analysis of the boomer generation.  These are people nearing their retirement years who are also now empty nesters – the kids have grown up and moved away.  This is important because the growth of suburbs is often understood as the action of parents to find good schools and big backyards for their children.  So the assumption is that once this rationale is removed, older empty nesters will head back to the city.

But Kotkin and Cox’s study of new census data shows the opposite to be true, writing that “this cohort in the past 10 years shows a 10.3% decline among core city dwellers, a loss of some 1.3 million people over the past decade.”

“In our ranking of the 51 largest metros in the U.S., the urban cores of San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago scored near the bottom, suffering double-digit percentage losses of boomers. According to the last Census, New York’s urban core, which theDaily News suggested is packed with aspiring seniors, lost 12% of boomers in their mid-50s to mid-60s  — or about 274,000 people.”

Smart Growth is based on assumptions … most of which are false.  Keep this bit of information handy the next time your urban leaders and city planners advocate higher densities for your community.

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