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Core Counties > Outlying Counties

Urban Density

Recent US Census Bureau data has once again confirmed that there's a growing preference for living in urban cores. More specifically:

It finds that population growth has been shifting to the core counties of the USA's 381 metro areas, especially since the economic recovery began gaining steam in 2010. Basically, the USA's urban core is getting denser, while far-flung suburbs watch their growth dwindle.

To put numbers to these statements, core counties in the US grew approximately 2.7% and outlying counties grew approximately 1.9% from 2010-2013. Most of the growth came from net migration, as opposed to higher birth rates.

The two big factors at play—which will be obvious to readers of this blog—appear to be both a desire to live in amenity rich and walkable communities and a continuing trend towards marrying and having kids later in life, which can often be the trigger for moving to the suburbs.

But the big question is whether or not this trend is here to stay or if it's an ephemeral fad caused by a bunch of over-educated and under-employed Millennials refusing to grow up. I would argue that it's not a fad.

If there's a clear consumer preference for urban neighborhoods, then I don't think people are just going to pick up and leave overnight. As long as there's adequate housing within the means of growing families, I think they're going to stay in or go to the areas in which they truly want to live.

There are also many other macroeconomic trends reinforcing this shift. Just yesterday, Richard Florida wrote an article in Atlantic Cities talking about how venture capital investment is shifting away from the suburbs, towards city centers and walkable communities. These companies (receiving investment) are the next generation of employers and they're starting in core areas.

I'll take that as a leading indicator.

Photo Credit: Urban Core Density/shutterstock