Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Demographic Engine of City Growth

Is the recent growth of cities a consequence of the economic shock experienced by America's young adults? The Great Recession idled millions of millennials, causing them to postpone marriage and childbearing. Without the nuclear family motive for moving to the suburbs, young adults are staying put in urban centers and boosting city populations. Between 2010 and 2012, the nation's largest cities (with populations of 50,000 or more) grew 2.1 percent, nearly double the 1.1 percent growth everywhere else. Cities may be growing not so much because they are attracting young adults, but because they are no longer losing young families to the suburbs. Take a look at the facts:
  • The  median age at first marriage is at a record high (29 for men; 27 for women). 
  • The fertility rate is at a record low (62.7 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44).
  • The number of nuclear families (married couples with children under age 18) headed by young adults fell by more than 1 million between 2007 and 2013. Nuclear families now account for only 24 percent of households headed by people under age 35.
Will cities lose their luster as the economy recovers and young adults revert to a more typical pattern of marriage and childbearing? Maybe, but there are reasons to doubt a return to the good old days. The biggest problem is student loan debt, shifting the age of first-time home buying from the early thirties to the late thirties. Only 37 percent of householders under age 35 are homeowners, the lowest homeownership rate on record for the age group. By the time they can afford to buy a home, younger generations will be accustomed to city life and may not be willing to trade urban amenities for suburban sprawl.

1 comment:

James Madison said...

Thank you for the analysis, I typically enjoy your posts. As a counterpoint to your conclusion in this point, please see the commentary from newgeography.com

http://www.newgeography.com/content/004169-americas-future-cities-where-the-youth-population-is-booming?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Newgeography+%28Newgeography.com+-+Economic%2C+demographic%2C+and+political+commentary+about+places%29