The Census Bureau this week released its 2008 population estimates for counties and metro areas. This data is of July 1, 2008, and thus is prior to when the recession really hit in earnest. Media coverage has focused on the declines in migration. While everyone tries to use this as evidence to support their pet theories, the likeliest explanation is that the economy is acting as a migration drag. There are fewer job relocations if companies aren’t hiring. The depressed national economy means there are few growing places to draw people in. And the housing market makes it difficult to sell and extract yourself from a community even if you want to.
Raleigh, North Carolina once again led the nation in population growth among metro areas greater than one million people, with a gain of 4.3%. Austin was #2 at 3.8%. Charlotte rounds out the top three at 3.4%
Among the metros I follow, the overall story is the same as last year. Indianapolis remains the growth and migration champion, though its growth advantage over the rest of the Midwest is eroding. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Kansas City, Columbus, and Louisville are also showing fairly healthy demographic growth, exceeding the national average and, apart from MSP, showing domestic in migration. Most of the rest of the Midwest trails the national average, and Detroit and Cleveland remain basket cases. However, Detroit appears to be falling off a cliff, which isn’t surprising given the state of the auto industry, while Cleveland is showing improved numbers. Whether the improvements in Cleveland and others at the bottom of the scale is due to people getting “stuck” in this economy or is legitimate improvement remains to be seen. Similarly for the erosion of good performance at the top of the chart.
Here is the table sorted by percentage growth. Note that in all these charts, there are 52 metro areas with over one million people vs. 51 the previous year. The rankings are only the rank within those 52, not among all metros nationally. In the chart below, if a city is shown as a “tie”, its rank is given as the highest possible among all cities at that growth level.
|City||2008 Rank||2008 Pct Change||2007 Rank||2007 Pct Change|
|Indianapolis||21 (tie)||1.3%||19 (tie)||1.5%|
|Columbus||27 (tie)||1.1%||25 (tie)||1.1%|
|Kansas City||29 (tie)||1.0%||24||1.2%|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul||29 (tie)||1.0%||25 (tie)||1.1%|
|Louisville||29 (tie)||1.0%||25 (tie)||1.1%|
|Chicago||32 (tie)||0.8%||32 (tie)||0.7%|
|Cincinnati||37 (tie)||0.5%||35 (tie)||0.6%|
|St. Louis||39 (tie)||0.4%||36 (tie)||0.4%|
|Milwaukee||39 (tie)||0.4%||38 (tie)||0.3%|
Not a lot of surprises here. As the intro would suggest, the top growth metros have slowed their growth, while the bottom metros held in there or improved. A couple of notable exceptions. Columbus, Ohio held steady in growth and improved its ranking nationally. Detroit’s decline accelerated. As noted, Indianapolis continues to see its demographic advantage versus the rest of the Midwest eroded.
The national population grew by 0.9% last year, down from 1.0% the year before. So there are five regional cities that actually grew at above the national average rate in population. Not bad at all.
Here is another view, by absolute population change.
|City||2008 Rank||2008 Change||2007 Rank||2007 Change|
This is very consistent with the percentage data, so nothing additional to say on this.
Here are the metros ranked by total population.
|City||2008 Rank||2008 Population|
I have recently commented on core county population, so I will list the core counties that increased and decreased in population this year. First, those that increased:
- Cook County, Illinois (Chicago)
- Franklin County, Ohio (Columbus)
- Hennepin County and Ramsey County, Minnesota (Minneapolis-St. Paul)
- Jackson County, Missouri (Kansas City)
- Jefferson County, Kentucky (Louisville)
- Marion County, Indiana (Indianapolis)
- Milwaukee County, Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
And those that decreased:
- Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Cleveland)
- Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati)
- St. Louis City and St. Louis County, Missouri (St. Louis)
- Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit)
Changes in population are made up of two components: natural increase and net migration. Natural increase is births minus deaths, which of course course can be negative though usually isn’t. Migration is people who moved in minus people who moved out, which again can be positive or negative. The Census Bureau reports both international and domestic migration.
I happen to think that net domestic migration is one of the absolute most telling stats about any city or region. That is, are people voting with their feet to come or to leave? That is the ultimate judgement on a city. Positive overall growth can mask the fact that people are actually choosing to leave a place.
Here is how the Midwest stacks up on that front.
|City||2008 Migration||2007 Migration||2008 Domestic||2008 International|
Again, this data is consistent with the general story of declining national migration. Indianapolis remains the Midwest migration champion, outdistancing its nearest competitor by 40%, though showing declining performance. Louisville puts up a very strong showing this year, particularly on the domestic migration side, and moved up in the league tables. Chicago had major drops in both domestic out migration and international in migration, leaving it similar to the previous year on a net basis.
Keep in mind, these are just estimates. We’ve come a long way since the last Census, and accuracy is probably degrading. I think we are due for one more set of estimates next year (for the July 2009 data), then we’ll be able to re-anchor in the 2010 Census with actual counts.
One note on the data. My 2007 year comparisons are based on my blog posting from last year. The Census Bureau updates older figures each year too, but I did not have the leisure to recalculate everything. If 2007 data is important to you, please verify versus the latest Census information.