Census: Immigration sustains urban counties, outer suburbs flourish, too
Wednesday, April 16th 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Immigrants helped stabilize some of the nation's big city centers last year while people moving around the country continued to push out the metropolitan fringes.
Rockwall County, Texas, about 20 miles east of Dallas, was the fastest growing county, ballooning by 8 percent between July 2001 and July 2002. Suburban counties around Denver, Atlanta and Washington also had big gains on the list released Thursday by the Census Bureau.
The latest figures provide fresh evidence of demographic trends that have developed for decades, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
``These big counties are increasingly dependent on immigration,'' Frey said. ``Growth in the suburbs has occurred because the more affordable homes are the ones further out.''
Sprawling Los Angeles County, the nation's largest, added 118,000 immigrants from abroad while losing 83,000 residents to other U.S. destinations. Overall, the population grew 1.3 percent in the year, to 9.8 million.
Cook County, Ill., home to Chicago, saw a net increase of 50,000 international migrants and a net decrease of 97,000 domestic migrants. The county's population overall remained relatively unchanged at 5.4 million.
The 2000 census showed immigration from Mexico helped Chicago reverse a decades-long decline in population. Newcomers came to the neighborhood of ``La Villita'', or ``The Little Village'', in southwest Chicago in search of jobs and to network with family and friends already there, which in turn helped businesses boom there, said Abel Nunez, an administrator at Centro Romero, a local social service agency.
``Chicago has had a long history of immigrant waves replacing immigrant waves,'' Nunez said.
Most of the largest urban counties had little or no growth, while suburban counties in the West and South once again dominated the list of fastest-growing areas.
After Rockwall County, the next three fastest-growing places were Loudoun County, Va., which is west of Washington; and the Atlanta suburbs of Henry and Forsyth counties in Georgia. Fifth was Flagler County, Fla., on the Atlantic coast between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach.
Joann Glover, a Rockwall, Texas, resident who organizes a club for new female residents, has mixed feelings about the growth. She moved there in 1989 to raise her kids in a quiet community while still being within commuting distance of Dallas.
Despite its proximity, suburban sprawl to Rockwall from Dallas had been stunted in recent decades because of poor highways and a big lake in between that acted as a natural boundary for growth, Glover said.
Now, she says, you can tell how much growth has affected Rockwall by counting the traffic lights: there are seven in town now, instead of just two a decade ago. ``Hopefully we can keep it in a way where it's not too urbanized,'' she said. ``I'd like to keep its ambiance of the country.''
Some suburbs have grown so fast they have become their own destination for commuters as jobs move out from downtowns into sprawling office parks, said Steve Murdock, the Texas state demographer.
But Murdock points out that studies suggest there is a breaking point for commuters: Most would rather not commute more than 90 minutes one way into work.
To compile the Census Bureau's annual estimate of county populations, demographers studied birth and death records while estimating immigration and domestic relocations based on the 2000 census.
Nationally, there were 288.4 million U.S. residents last July, up 1.1 percent from the previous year.