The Still Elusive "Return to the City"


Metropolitan area results are beginning to trickle in from the 2010 census. They reveal that, at least for the major metropolitan areas so far, there is little evidence to support the often repeated claim by think tanks and the media that people are moving from suburbs to the historical core municipalities. This was effectively brought to light in a detailed analysis of Chicago metropolitan area results by New Geography’s Aaron Renn.  read more »

Chicago Takes a Census Shellacking


The Census results are out for Illinois, and it's bad news for the city of Chicago, whose population plunged by over 200,000 people to 2,695,598, its lowest population since before 1920.  This fell far short of what would have been predicted given the 2009 estimate of 2,851,268. It's a huge negative surprise of over 150,000, though perhaps one that should have been anticipated given the unexpectedly weak numbers for the state as a whole that were released in December.  read more »

America's Biggest Brain Magnets


For a decade now U.S. city planners have obsessively pursued college graduates, adopting policies to make their cities more like dense hot spots such as New York, to which the "brains" allegedly flock.

But in the past 10 years "hip and cool" places like New York have suffered high levels of domestic outmigration. Some boosters rationalize this by saying the U.S. is undergoing a "bipolar migration"--an argument recently laid out by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.  read more »

Yes, We Do Need to Build More Roads


Road are clearly out of fashion in urban planning circles. Conventional wisdom now decries roads in favor of public transit, walking or biking in developments designed to mimic traditional 19th century urbanism. Common refrains are “we can't build our way out of congestion” or “widening roads to cure congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Also frequently noted is the vehicle miles traveled has – at least until recently – outpaced population growth.  read more »

Greetings From Recoveryland: Ten Places to Watch Coming Out of the Recession


Like a massive tornado, the Great Recession up-ended the topography of America. But even as vast parts of the country were laid low, some cities withstood the storm and could emerge even stronger and shinier than before. So, where exactly are these Oz-like destinations along the road to recovery? If you said Kansas, you’re not far off. Try Oklahoma. Or Texas. Or Iowa. Not only did the economic twister of the last two years largely spare Tornado Alley, it actually may have helped improve the landscape.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?


For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

The New Look of the American Suburb


If you want an easy demonstration of the unsustainability of the classic American suburb, just take a drive around the inner ring suburbs of almost any city, starting with the ones that have a classic branching, winding streets, not traditional grids or those that grew up along transit lines. It is easy to find untold miles of decay, of “dead malls”, “grayboxes”, and subdivisions that have seen better days. If most of today’s new suburbs think they’ll fare any better, they are going to be in for a rude shock in 30 years or so.  read more »

SPECIAL REPORT: Metropolitan Area Migration Mirrors Housing Affordability


On schedule, the annual ritual occurred last week in which the Census Bureau releases population and migration estimates and the press announces that people are no longer moving to the Sun Belt. The coverage by The Wall Street Journal was typical of the media bias, with a headline “Sun Belt Loses its Shine.” In fact, the story is more complicated – and more revealing about future trends.

Domestic Migration Tracks Housing Affordability: There have been changes in domestic migration (people moving from one part of the country to another) trends in the last few years, but the principal association is with housing affordability.  read more »

Midwest Success Stories


Most observers do not associate the Midwest with urban success, but quite the opposite in fact. But while there are plenty of places that are legitimately suffering, there are also plenty of success stories out there that don't always get the mindshare or press they deserve.  read more »

The 10 Percent Solution to Urban Growth


What if we achieved the urbanist dream, with people deciding en masse to move back to the city? Well, that would create a big problem, since there would be no place to put them. Many cities hit their peak population in 1950, when the US total was 150 million. Today it is over 300 million, with virtually all the growth taking place in the suburbs.  read more »