Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Census 2010 Offers Portrait of America in Transition

I promised some people I’d come back and update my Census findings after all the states were released. Well that’s done so here I am. I previously posted this on New Geography the day after the last of the results came in, and the piece has gone sort of ballistic.

If there’s one simple example that shows the power of my Telestrian platform, it’s this: the maps I created from it landed on the front page of Yahoo:

I’m not sure how many hundreds of thousands or millions of page views that generated, but it was a lot. (The piece was also featured on Gawker, the Daily Mail, etc). I could have slaved away forever on this stuff and never gotten any exposure like that without compelling visuals. There was nothing magical about my charts – anyone could have made them with the tool. Who knows, maybe you’ll use to land on the front pages of tier one internet sites on day too.

In any case, I also put together a complete list of census results for all metropolitan areas. As the Census Bureau hasn’t put this out yet, these should be considered preliminary and unofficial. Here’s the NG piece:

The Census Bureau just finished releasing all of the state redistricting file information from the 2010 Census, giving us a now complete portrait of population change for the entire country. Population growth continued to be heavily concentrated in suburban metropolitan counties while many rural areas, particularly in the Great Plains, continue to shrink.

Percentage change in population, 2000-2010. Counties that grew in population in blue, decliners in red.

Dividing counties by those growing faster or slower than the US average paints the picture even more starkly:

Percentage change in population, 2000-2010. Counties growing faster than the US average in blue, slower than the US average in red.

The release of all county data means it is also possible to take an unofficial, preliminary look at metropolitan area growth. The biggest gainers were Sunbelt cities in the South, Texas, and the Midwest, while the Midwest and Northeast continued to lag, particularly the old heavy manufacturing axis stretching from Detroit to Pittsburgh. But this picture was not monolithic. Many Southern cities with Rust Belt profiles like Birmingham failed to grow much compared to neighbors, nor did coastal California with its development restrictions.

Percentage change in population, 2000-2010. MSAs that grew in population in blue, decliners in red.

Percentage change in population, 2000-2010. Counties growing faster than the US average in blue, slower than the US average in red.

A full table of population change for large metro areas (greater than one million people) is available at the bottom of this post.

Basic race information is also available in this data release, since it is used to ensure redistricting complies with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Here’s a map showing the concentration of Hispanic population the US:

Population of Hispanic Origin, as a percentage of total population.

Hispanic population remains heavily concentrated in the Southwest, but the interior, and especially parts of the South one would not expect, such as Alabama, posted significant gains in Hispanic population share.

Hispanic population as change in percentage of total population, 2000-2010.

As the highest concentrations of Hispanics remain in the Southwest, similarly the Black population is at its heaviest concentrations in the South:

Black Alone population as a percentage of total population, 2010.

A lot has been written about the so-called reverse Great Migration of blacks from the North to the South. These results show something of that effect, but less of a general than a specific migration. Some cities both North and South are becoming magnets for Blacks, while other traditional Black hubs like Chicago are no longer favored. Note that some northern cities that showed a larger increase in concentration started off on a low base, like Minneapolis-St. Paul:

Black Alone population as change in percentage of total population, 2000-2010.

As noted above, here are all US metro areas with a population greater than one million people in 2010, ranked by percentage change in population:

2000-2010 Population Growth, MSAs of 1 Million or More
Rank Metropolitan Area 2000 2010 Total Change Pct Change
1 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 1,375,765 1,951,269 575,504 41.8%
2 Raleigh-Cary, NC 797,071 1,130,490 333,419 41.8%
3 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX 1,249,763 1,716,289 466,526 37.3%
4 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC 1,330,448 1,758,038 427,590 32.1%
5 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 3,254,821 4,224,851 970,030 29.8%
6 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 1,644,561 2,134,411 489,850 29.8%
7 Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 3,251,876 4,192,887 941,011 28.9%
8 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 4,715,407 5,946,800 1,231,393 26.1%
9 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 1,711,703 2,142,508 430,805 25.2%
10 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 4,247,981 5,268,860 1,020,879 24.0%
11 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 5,161,544 6,371,773 1,210,229 23.4%
12 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 1,311,789 1,589,934 278,145 21.2%
13 Jacksonville, FL 1,122,750 1,345,596 222,846 19.8%
14 Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA 1,796,857 2,149,127 352,270 19.6%
15 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO 2,179,240 2,543,482 364,242 16.7%
16 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 4,796,183 5,582,170 785,987 16.4%
17 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 2,395,997 2,783,243 387,246 16.2%
18 Salt Lake City, UT 968,858 1,124,197 155,339 16.0%
19 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 1,927,881 2,226,009 298,128 15.5%
20 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 1,525,104 1,756,241 231,137 15.2%
21 Richmond, VA 1,096,957 1,258,251 161,294 14.7%
22 Oklahoma City, OK 1,095,421 1,252,987 157,566 14.4%
23 Columbus, OH 1,612,694 1,836,536 223,842 13.9%
24 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,043,878 3,439,809 395,931 13.0%
25 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 5,007,564 5,564,635 557,071 11.1%
26 Kansas City, MO-KS 1,836,038 2,035,334 199,296 10.9%
27 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 2,968,806 3,279,833 311,027 10.5%
28 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 1,161,975 1,283,566 121,591 10.5%
29 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 2,813,833 3,095,313 281,480 10.0%
30 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1,205,204 1,316,100 110,896 9.2%
31 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 1,052,238 1,128,047 75,809 7.2%
32 Baltimore-Towson, MD 2,552,994 2,710,489 157,495 6.2%
33 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 1,576,370 1,671,683 95,313 6.0%
34 Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 2,009,632 2,130,151 120,519 6.0%
35 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,735,819 1,836,911 101,092 5.8%
36 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 1,148,618 1,212,381 63,763 5.6%
37 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 4,123,740 4,335,391 211,651 5.1%
38 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 5,687,147 5,965,343 278,196 4.9%
39 St. Louis, MO-IL 2,698,687 2,812,896 114,209 4.2%
40 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI 9,098,316 9,461,105 362,789 4.0%
41 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 12,365,627 12,828,837 463,210 3.7%
42 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 1,500,741 1,555,908 55,167 3.7%
43 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 4,391,344 4,552,402 161,058 3.7%
44 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 18,323,002 18,897,109 574,107 3.1%
45 Rochester, NY 1,037,831 1,054,323 16,492 1.6%
46 Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 1,582,997 1,600,852 17,855 1.1%
47 Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 1,170,111 1,135,509 -34,602 -3.0%
48 Pittsburgh, PA 2,431,087 2,356,285 -74,802 -3.1%
49 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 2,148,143 2,077,240 -70,903 -3.3%
50 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 4,452,557 4,296,250 -156,307 -3.5%
51 New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA 1,316,510 1,167,764 -148,746 -11.3%

Note: The original post data was calculated using rollups the day the final county results were released. This data has been updated for Denver with the official Census reported value for 2000 due to the creation of Broomfield County in 2001.

This post originally appeared at New Geography.

Topics: Demographic Analysis

14 Responses to “Census 2010 Offers Portrait of America in Transition”

  1. Charles Courtney says:

    That’s awesome.
    I saw that this morning and did a double take because it looked so much like the ones you’ve been producing.

  2. aim says:

    Nice work! I thought those maps looked familiar.

  3. Chris Barnett says:

    I had the same reaction as aim…then I saw the Telestrian credit and realized you’d hit big time.

    Congratulations, Aaron. Monetize! (Which I suppose is a sort of pun, as the county maps are a Monet-like pointillist-impressionist map of the US.)

  4. Tim says:

    What strikes me is that even in places like Michigan the growth is in the cities. I think the story could be about the continued decline of the midwest, but it could also be about the continued decline of the rural community.

  5. the urban politician says:

    From a standpoint of big cities, this shows that the big 3 metros (NY, Chicago, LA) are stagnant in growth compared to the rest of the nation.

    I wonder why that is? This seems to say that, at least in America, really big metros reach a point where the advantage of their massive size is outweighed by Americans’ intolerance of congestion, higher cost of living, higher cost of maintaining infrastructure, etc.

    Will the Houstons and the Dallases of the world eventually hit a point in their rapid metro growth when they begin to encounter the same phenomenon?

  6. Chris Barnett says:

    I don’t think it’s correct to label a metro that adds a half-million people in a decade, as both LA and NY did, as “stagnant”. The question also ignores the fact that San Bernardino-Riverside, a very-fast-growing area, is an extension of the LA metro that added nearly a million people. (The division is artificial. The Inland Empire’s exurban growth was largely driven by a quest for affordable housing in the LA area.)

    This is the problem with comparing on percentages, or on differential rates: it ignores magnitude. Only six metros added more people than NY, and none added more than the sprawling combined blob that is LA-Orange County-Riverside-San Bernardino.

    The mega-metro is alive and well, at least in LA and NY.

    But the Chicago metro is definitely mid-pack, with MSP (less than half its size) gaining nearly as many people and Seattle, San Antonio, and Denver outgaining it.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    The main reason for stagnant growth in some areas that the census undercounted the central city. The ACS had New York City growing by 5%; the census had it growing 2%, much less than the growth in occupied housing units. The ACS had Chicago growing; the census had it declining.

  8. the urban politician says:


    The Chicago metro has 3 million fewer people than LA but added only 100,000 fewer residents than LA did.

    I find it rather strange, then, that you are calling Chicago’s growth “middle of the pack” but not LA’s. I can use the same argument you did: LA’s MSA grew by 463k but there are several metros that are MUCH smaller that grew by nearly as much or even more: Las Vegas, Austin, Charlotte, Orlando, Washington DC, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, etc etc–so many just from glazing over the above list.

    Regardless, my point remains the same–the really big metros are growing at much slower rates than the middle sized or smaller ones. Sure, New York grew by half a million but that is paltry given the fact that it is a metro of 18 million people! Just think about how many women live in a metro that large and how many babies are being born.

    Clearly this shows that there is a HUGE outmigration of population from these regions, and I would even go so far as to argue that New York and LA are suffering even more than Chicago is. There is no question, from looking at this data, that the really big metros are stagnating relative to the middle sized and smaller ones.

  9. the urban politician says:


    I also have to correct your observation that 6 metros grew by more people than NY. Actually, 7 did. Add to that Miami, which grew by about 17,000 fewer people than NY did, and you basically have 8 metros that grew by as many or more people than New York did. Most of these metros are MUCH smaller than NY is.

    The evidence for the point that I’m trying to make is as clear as day.

  10. Firstly, I think that the notion of undercounting as an explanation for this is overblown. In order for that to be true, the Census Bureau would have had to have gotten worse at counting since 2000, and I don’t see how that happened.

    I think there’s something to TUP’s notion that the biggest cities are growing slowly. Partially I think it’s a life cycle issue. Cities like Chicago grew extremely rapidly when they were at an early stage in their development. One day Houston & Co. will exhaust their growth stage, and that’s when we’ll find out what they are really made of.

    The other thing is that these huge cities have decided to go for quality over quantity. If you’re just an average suburbanite who doesn’t really take advantage of what the _city_ of Chicago offers and aren’t an elite global knowledge worker, frankly moving to Indianapolis or Austin is a great deal for you. We’re sort of seeing another “Big Sort” type phenomenon play out where the tier ones have decided to grow “vertically” while smaller metros have decided to grow “horizontally” – in more ways than one.

  11. the urban politician says:


    I would also add that Chicago is having a bit of an identity crisis. Long the city of manufacturing and blue collar families, it has always adopted a culture of mild-mannered, down-to-earth values.

    But now there is a problem with that model. Other metros have natural advantages over Chicago in attracting these blue collar industries, and Chicago finds itself having no other choice but to go in the direction of quality over quantity. That said, I really get the feeling that the city/metro is a bit uneasy in what is becoming its new skin. While it has been a huge metro for a very long time, for some reason Chicago seems to be rather new to this mindset that, for example, San Francisco, Boston, and even Washington DC tend to accept rather naturally.

    While this isn’t the case with all cities, I sort of view the Mayor of Chicago as being the symbolic persona of the political mindset of Chicagoland. Now I know this will sound like a stereotype, but one can’t help but see the landslide election of a Jewish millionaire connected to top social/political circles (remind you of a mayor of another major city?) as a sign that Chicago has finally accepted its transformation into a new league of cities.

    Call this all hogwash, overspeculation, or whatever. But that’s my read on things.

  12. Alon Levy says:

    Firstly, I think that the notion of undercounting as an explanation for this is overblown. In order for that to be true, the Census Bureau would have had to have gotten worse at counting since 2000, and I don’t see how that happened.

    First, in order for that not to be true, New York would have had to have added more occupied housing units than people, at a time when household size in the city slightly increased.

    And second, the census workers did a very hasty job in the dense cities, which had its worst effect when counting new people, e.g. immigrants. Maybe they did a better job in 2000. Maybe they didn’t, but there were fewer immigrants to undercount. I don’t know. All I know is that New York’s population grew by a lot more than 2% last decade.

  13. Chris Barnett says:

    TUP: how does a population increase mean “huge outmigration”?

    I learned math when a number with a “+” in front of it was an increase (or in the case of population, growth). LA’s population has outgrown its LA-OC metro and now sprawls into the SB and Riverside County deserts. That sprawlburg ADDED more people than Jacksonville Metro has in total.

    The nearly one and a half million people who moved to LA-LB-OC-Riverside can represent nothing other than a HUGE increase in population in real numbers, and an increase just a tick off the national average in percentage terms.

    Look, I’m a city guy, and I don’t like sprawl (especially in places without adequate drinking water). But I can’t ignore real numbers that prove it is continuing relatively unabated. Whatever’s wrong with Chicago and New York is not wrong with LA, so it’s not a “large metro” thing.

    I’m dumbfounded at your insistence that it’s not really happening.

  14. Alex B. says:

    It would be possible that the Census Bureau was just as bad at counting central cities in 2010 as they were in 2000 but the effect was greater in 2010 – if central cities grew more in the 00s than they did in the 90s. Not sure if that is true or not.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

About the Urbanophile


Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

Full Bio


Please email before connecting with me on LinkedIn if we don't already know each other.



Copyright © 2006-2014 Urbanophile, LLC, All Rights Reserved - Click here for copyright information and disclosures