Posted by Leonard Steinberg on April 28th, 2014

More Americans are moving to cities in the wake of the uptick in the economy in recent years, reversing the decades-long trend of moving to the suburbs. Census Bureau data shows that the Urban American city is experiencing a renaissance, driven primarily by migration into the center of the nation’s urban centers, a trend being witnessed globally.

In 2013 2.3 million more people lived in metro areas than in 2012, with 269.9 million people now living in cities and their surrounding areas. Between 2012 and 2013, only 92 out of the country’s 381 metropolitan areas lost population. This shift to metro areas has been increasing since 2010, when the economic recovery improved.

This trend is driven largely by two groups: young professionals and Baby Boomers who are retiring and moving back to the cities mostly because of suburban boredom. The convenience of a City is a huge draw to this demographic, not to mention the culture, health care and entertainment. A city like new York is a mini-country unto itself with a gross metropolitan product of $1.28 trillion (in 2010)….thats a bit larger than the GDP of ALL of South Korea or Mexico!

Net migration produced the greatest growth, not higher birth rates. Cities with the highest “natural increase” include Washington, D.C., and Provo-Orem, Utah, recently voted the city with the highest rate of well-being in the nation. This highlights the need for all urban centers to focus on quality of life: parks, plazas, trees, improved public transportation, good zoning that produces a mix of neighborhood services, etc all add value to the big picture. Houston had the largest numeric increase, gaining about 138,000 people between 2012 and 2013.

Young people are getting married later and delaying starting families, two major life events that often prompt a move to the suburbs. The most important factor of course is AFFORDABILITY……but young people now more than ever before, truly desire home ownership. Renting for life is somewhat akin to serfdom. If government provides affordable housing, then that demographic is forever indebted to the government which is bad for political fairness. Moving to the cities, rather than the other way around, could become the “new normal” as most young people cannot afford the downpayment required to buy a house in the suburbs and continue renting in the city where there are more, better paying jobs.

Most of the USA’s fastest-growing metro areas are in the Midwest, fueled by job opportunities in energy industries like mining, oil, and gas. Metro areas with highest growth rates include Odessa, Texas; Fargo, N.D./Minn and The Villages, Fla. In New York the financial, insurance, health care, and real estate industries form the basis of the economy. The city is also the most important center for mass media, journalism and publishing in the United States, and is the preeminent arts center in the country. Creative industries such as new media, advertising, fashion, design and architecture account for a growing share of employment, with New York City possessing a strong competitive advantage in these industries.

Many youngsters moving to Cities could be termed URBAN IDEALISTS…..the dream of city life has a strong attraction full of possibilities, opportunities, excitement and ‘the future’, surrounded by like-minded youth whose boredom with suburban life keeps growing. Increased urban density can also be attributed to significant investment by cities in infrastructure and transportation.  The U.S.A essentially has to learn how to build cities a second time as too many, especially New York are not fully equipped to handle this growth in population. Maybe this trend is an opportunity for the suburbs to introduce elements to their lifestyle that incorporate some of the urban allure?