Friday, March 20th, 2009

Census Bureau Releases 2008 Population Estimates

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%
Cleveland 51 (0.3%) 49 (tie) (0.4%)
Detroit 52 (0.7%) 51 (0.5%)

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
Chicago 7 72,771 7 66,231
Minneapolis-St. Paul 21 32,258 18 36,200
Indianapolis 27 22,722 26 24,705
Kansas City 29 20,567 27 23,745
Columbus 31 20,110 30 19,774
Louisville 38 12,392 35 13,311
Cincinnati 39 11,313 36 12,550
St. Louis 40 11,245 37 9,987
Milwaukee 43 5,930 42 3,873
Cleveland 51 (6,594) 50 (8,848)
Detroit 52 (32,413) 51 (27,314)

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
Chicago 3 9,569,624
Detroit 11 4,425,110
Minneapolis-St. Paul 16 3,229,878
St. Louis 18 2,816,710
Cincinnati 24 2,155,137
Cleveland 26 2,088,291
Kansas City 29 2,002,047
Columbus 32 1,773,120
Indianapolis 33 1,715,459
Milwaukee 39 1,549,308
Louisville 42 1,244,696

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
Indianapolis 9,008 11,350 6,707 2,301
Louisville 6,406 8,052 5,099 1,307
Columbus 5,846 6,458 2,499 3,347
Kansas City 4,673 8,808 1,413 3,260
Minneapolis-St. Paul 4,544 7,493 (3,440) 7,984
Chicago 937 (6,028) (42,110) 43,047
Cincinnati (1,672) 511 (3,569) 1,897
St. Louis (2,475) (2,998) (5,567) 3,092
Milwaukee (3,739) (5,094) (6,443) 2,704
Cleveland (11,949) (13,597) (14,896) 2,947
Detroit (52,089) (45,848) (62,160) 10,071

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.

Topics: Demographic Analysis

6 Responses to “Census Bureau Releases 2008 Population Estimates”

  1. Alon Levy says:

    Is it common for intercensal estimates to be very far off? For example, was there a large fluctuation in population between the 1999 estimate and the 2000 census?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would be interested in the overall CSA population figures. i believe that paints an even better picture for a region. One will note that Indy’s metro numbers are still skewed down by the exclusion of the Anderson metro numbers. With Anderson’s decline and Indy’s overall growth it is a clear indicator that the Anderson MSA should be included in Indy’s numbers.

  3. The Urbanophile says:

    Alon, there have been variations. I haven’t done enough study to comment, however.

    There is a belief out there among some that central cities are radically under counted. We shall see in 2010. Of course, even an actual count that more or less verified the estimates would never satisfy advocacy groups.

    anon 7:11, many metro areas can make arguments about their composition. CSA is another way to look at it, though usually not the most common. It probably makes more sense in places like the Bay Area that are split into multiple metros.

    The OMB will likely shuffle things around again after the next Census, so stay patient.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Anon: the Census Bureau has CSA-level data as well. The 2008/2007 CSA growth numbers are, to one decimal place, identical to the MSA growth numbers given in the table in the original post.

    My experience with looking at county-to-county commuter flows is that CSAs are more natural than MSAs. MSAs are very sensitive to continuous buildup, which trumps commuter flows.

    For example, Fairfield County, Connecticut has a buildup gap between it and New York, so it is not included in the MSA even though 6.9% of its employed population works in New York City. However, Ocean County, New Jersey, which has continuous buildup along the Jersey Shore, but only 2.2% of its population commuting to New York City, is included in the MSA. This remains true if you look at commuter rail access: Fairfield County has ample service to New York via the Metro-North, with a mainline running its entire length plus several branches, whereas Ocean County only has two New Jersey Transit stations, at its northeast corner.

    I occasionally try to compute metro areas using the Japanese definition, which is to pick some designated cities, and then take every city where at least 1.5% of the adult population commutes to the designated cities. I usually do this on the county level – for instance, with Chicago, I’d designate Cook County, plus Lake County, Indiana. With Detroit, I’d designate Wayne and Oakland Counties. In both cases, the resulting metro area perfectly coincides with the CSA.

    In most cases, the 1.5% metro area is exactly the same as the CSA, or a little bit larger – for instance, with New York, it includes two extra exurban counties, totaling 200,000 people. For Dallas and Houston, it includes one extra county in almost every direction, but these counties are lightly populated, adding at most 150,000-200,000 to the total. It deviates from this pattern only twice: Boston’s New Hampshire suburbs don’t extend so far north by the 1.5% definition as by the CSA definition; and the Bay Area gains four new exurban counties, of which three are in the Central Valley, totaling 2 million people, making it the fourth largest metro area in the country.

    Another good way of comparing CSAs with MSAs is looking at boom counties. Every successful metro area has very rapid growth at its edge. In New York, this occurs in the Northeast Pennsylvania exurbs, and to a lesser extent in Orange County, and the aforementioned Ocean County, New Jersey. In Chicago it does in Kendall and Will Counties. In LA it does in the Inland Empire. In the Bay Area it does in the nearest parts of the Central Valley. Ideally, your metro area definition should include these rapidly expanding outer rims, not just the older core suburbs.

  5. GreatLakesGuy says:

    So, every metro on your list had positive international migration (immigration) in 2008? It surprised me unless I’m reading your stats incorrectly.

  6. Alon Levy says:

    I’m not surprised. The US is a top destination for international migration. Conversely, few Americans emigrate, even those living in declining cities; when they move, they move to other cities in the US.

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