Are Demographic Forces Generating an Urban Revival?: American Cities, 1950-2006

Leah P. Boustan, University of California, Los Angeles
Allison Shertzer, University of California, Los Angeles

Over the past decade, the popular press has heralded a revival of downtown living driven by such demographic forces as later ages at first marriage. We use Census data, supplemented by the American Community Survey, to examine the connection between demographic patterns and relative city and suburban population growth. Population growth in the suburbs has outstripped growth in the central cities in every decade from 1950 to 2006. We show that if not for a few key demographic forces – including immigration, the reduction in households with children and the aging out of the World War II generation, many of whom had access to housing benefits – the flight to the suburbs would have been even more dramatic than it was. Demographic forces have stanched the flow to the suburbs but are not large enough to generate an urban revival.

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Presented in Poster Session 7