Thursday, September 29, 2011

Population And Prosperity

If a metro is gaining population, then it is doing well. Growing the ranks of residents is a policy goal. The remarkable turnaround in Eastern Pennsylvania:

Results of the 2010 census showed Pittsburgh and Erie losing population in the decade beginning in 2000, the census data showed.

A trend toward gains in population in U.S. cities is due in part to immigration and in part to empty-nesters, or parents whose children have grown up and left home, moving back to cities, said Thomas Ginsberg, project manager for the Philadelphia Research Initiative, part of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Philadelphia is part of that," he said.

Allentown grew faster in the first decade of this century than any other Pennsylvania city, by 10.7 percent to 118,032 residents, according to the bureau.

Reading also was a big gainer, with 8.5 percent more people, for a total of 88,032, it said.

Since migrants vote with their feet, Reading is winner. Pittsburgh is a loser. What explains the Reading miracle? Depends on how you define "miracle":

These are common stories in Reading, a struggling city of 88,000 that has earned the unwelcome distinction of having the largest share of its residents living in poverty, barely edging out Flint, Mich., according to new Census Bureau data. The count includes only cities with populations of 65,000 or more, and has a margin of error that makes it difficult to declare a winner — or, perhaps more to the point, a loser.

Reading began the last decade at No. 32. But it broke into the top 10 in 2007, joining other places known for their high rates of poverty like Flint, Camden, N.J., and Brownsville, Tex., according to an analysis of the data for The New York Times by Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College.

As the population in Reading climbed, so did the poverty rate. If you look at the total number of people, you completely miss the story. The "suburban ghetto":

From 2000 to 2010, the poor populations skyrocketed in the outskirts of many cities: The Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, and Milwaukee areas are among the 16 spots around the country where the number of suburban residents below the poverty level more than doubled during the decade. During the recent years of economic strife (2007 to 2010), the U.S. suburbs added 3.4 million poor, compared to 2 million more poor people in cities.

The poor are being pushed out urban centers. In the Reading case, that means out of any borough part of New York City. In the Iowa City case, new residents are coming all the way from Chicago:

Poverty is literally migrating to new places, with much of it ending up in the suburbs. I'd like to do away with any discussion about population gain or brain drain. Instead, let's start addressing poverty.

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