CENSUS shows upswing for most cities

Monday, May 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND – Overall, the United States' largest cities grew nearly twice as fast in the 1990s as in the 1980s, with three out of every four urban centers gaining population, an analysis of the latest census figures shows.

But the urban renaissance was uneven in the cities with more than 100,000 people. Reversing a 50-year trend, Chicago grew by 112,000 people. New York exceeded 8 million people for the first time. But Philadelphia and Detroit lost population.

Western and Southern cities, like Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C., grew the fastest, fueled by booming economies and an influx of immigrants.

Previously released information from the 2000 census has shown that the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis is the fastest-growing large urban area in the nation, joining an elite group of nine U.S. metropolitan regions with populations exceeding 5 million people.

Urban industrial centers in the Rust Belt such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and Middle Atlantic and Northeastern cities such as Hartford, Conn., and Baltimore generally declined as jobs and people migrated elsewhere. Cities with highly educated residents, such as Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio, two university towns, gained population. Cities with large numbers of poor people, such as St. Louis, typically declined.

Cities with big public transit systems, like Philadelphia, generally shrank, while cities where residents rely more on their cars, like Phoenix, now the nation's sixth-largest city, typically grew.

With faster-growing suburbs siphoning people away from neighboring cities, these and other findings carry wide-ranging implications for civic leaders seeking to keep their residents from leaving and to lure others back. "What all this says is that consumer preferences are important," said Edward L. Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. "City officials need to worry about what makes their city an attractive place to live in. They need to make streets safe and schools solid."

Most cities continued growth patterns from earlier decades. Only five cities experienced a true recovery in the 1990s by turning a population loss in the 1980s into a population gain a decade later: Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Denver; Atlanta; and Yonkers, N.Y.