Since 2011, many of the largest U.S. metro areas grew faster than their suburbs, a reversal of the decades-long trend of suburb-dominated regional growth patterns.

William Frey, senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute says this surge in urban growth could be a consequence of the collapse of the suburban housing market and the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Adding to the momentum, cities such as Austin Texas, Charlotte, and Denver have economies and amenities that are attractive to young professionals – those making up a large portion of potential movers. Frey says although the numbers have slowed slightly from 2012 to 2013, urban growth should not be discredited as a passing trend.

So which cities are growing faster than their suburbs and vice-versa? The Atlantic reports that from 2012 to 2013 the metro area with the largest primary city growth relative to its suburbs was New Orleans, where the city grew 2.4 percent compared to 0.5 percent growth for its suburbs. Much of this growth can be attributed to post-Katrina reconstruction, according to The Atlantic.

Other cities outpacing their surrounding suburbs include:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Seattle
  • Minneapolis-St.Paul
  • Columbus
  • Richmond
  • Denver
  • Washington DC
  • San Diego
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Boston
  • New York
  • Oklahoma City
  • Sacramento
  • Tampa, Fla.
  • Orlando, Fla.
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • Los Angeles
  • Philadelphia

The Atlantic found suburban growth outpaced urban growth in traditionally sprawl-oriented Sunbelt metros such as Jacksonville, Houston, Las Vegas and Nashville. Rustbelt metros saw suburban sprawl as well, including Detroit, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Cleveland. San Francisco’s suburbs, too, saw more growth than the city center.

Richard Florida, senior editor at The Atlantic, agrees with Frey that city growth is not just a flash in the pan. Despite recent fluctuations, the fact remains that from 2012 to 2013, city growth remained higher than suburban growth in a third of all large metros.  It’s true that this number has decreased from 2011 to 2012’s figure of 27 metros, but the number remains significantly higher than it was in the past decade, where just five large metros saw their urban centers increase faster than their suburbs.

“The era of rapid suburbanization at the expense of city vitality may, at long last, have come to a close,” Florida writes.

If you want to learn more, you might be interested in The End of the Suburbs, one of American City & County’s recent selections for the Leadership Book Club.


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