Return to Cities? We’ll Believe It When We See it

In recent months there has been much chit-chat on line and in the press about a supposed return to cities, whereby young folks are abandoning suburbs and heading for the bright lights and abundant amenities of cities. Now it appears that the problem with that depiction is that it isn’t true. If you look past percentages and look at the actual numbers you discover that the numbers of people choosing to live in the suburbs by far exceeds those who decide to live in the cities.

Do take a look at Bill Miley, Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics . . . Will Suburbs Soon Become Ghost Towns?, August 7, 2012 — click here. Rather than go through the whole megillah, examining the dubious statistics behind this, we quote the meat of Miley’s point.

“Brookings Institution demographer William Frey had researched the most recent census data to break down estimated growth in terms of cities and suburbs. According to his analysis of the 51 metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, the primary cities in those metros grew an average of 1.1 percent, compared with 0.9 percent growth in the suburban areas between July 2010 and July 2011. So what was wrong with most of the reporting? It’s the deliberate misinterpretation and manipulation of the data to imply false trends. First of all, the central cities make up only a small portion of the metropolitan areas, and a faster percentage growth doesn’t translate into a larger numeric growth. The data revealed that Atlanta grew by 2.4 percent while its suburbs grew by only 1.3 percent. But Atlanta’s 2.4-percent gain meant 10,040 new residents, while the suburbs 1.3 percent gain meant 62,869 new residents. Numerically, suburban growth swamped the growth of the central cities. There’s another way that a city’s percentage growth can be guaranteed and inflated quite easily. It’s called annexation.” Emphasis added.

So it appears that all the “back to the city” chit-chat may only be so much BS peddled by people pursuing an ideological agenda. It might be interesting to ask the promoters of this “back to the city Movement” if (a) they have school-age children, and if so (b) do those kids go to urban public schools. Somehow we don’t think they do.

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