Kaid Benfield Archive


New census numbers confirm that sprawl is losing its grip

Kaid Benfield

Posted March 19, 2009 at 6:18PM

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somewhere sort of near Atlanta (by:Andrew Bossi, creative commons license)I've written about this before, but this week there's new evidence that sprawl is on the decline, and more people are getting it.  There are quite a few news stories this morning about the latest census data, but I'll link you to Haya El Nasser in USA Today.  Here's the gist:

"Booming Sun Belt cities and exurban counties across the USA are not attracting as many people as they once did while older industrial centers that had lost residents for decades are losing fewer, according to Census population estimates out today . . .

"Many of the older areas are still attracting fewer people than they're losing, but the losses are much smaller than in previous years. The July 1, 2008, estimates of population in counties and metropolitan areas show dramatic turnabouts: New York registered the smallest outmigration since at least 1990 . . ."

In the Washington, DC area where I live, the shift in trend is dramatic, according to N.C. Aizenman in The Washington Post:

"As housing prices have plummeted and credit has shriveled, more residents of the District and Washington's inner suburban counties have chosen to stay put, all but ending the steady exodus to the region's less expensive, outer suburbs that characterized most of this decade, according to Census Bureau estimates released today . . .

"The impact of the trend -- which [Brookings Institution demographer William] Frey said follows similar patterns in metropolitan areas including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando and Charlotte -- was particularly dramatic in Arlington County: More residents moved there from other counties than moved out during the July 2007 to July 2008 period covered by the census figures, a first for this decade. The net gain of 1,750 people, combined with a net 2,403 immigrants who moved to Arlington from overseas during that period, helped swell the county's population by 3 percent, compared with 1.6 percent growth from July 2006 to July 2007 . . ."

I may spend more time inside these numbers in a future post.  While I agree that the economic crash has accelerated the trend, I think there's considerable evidence that, just as with our driving habits, these changes were already afoot.