NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Says Prosperity Bypassing Small Cities

June 11, 1999

In a report to be unveiled today, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development researchers contend that while big American cities are doing very well, small and mid-sized cities are not sharing in the strong economy.

Among the points offered in the third annual "State of the Cities" report:

  • Many small and mid-sized cities face declining populations, rising unemployment and increased poverty rates -- and some older, close-in suburbs share the same problems.
  • Cities have grown in population by 11 percent since 1980 - - compared with 25 percent in suburbs.
  • About one in three cities have poverty rates of 20 percent or higher -- 50 percent above the national average.
  • About one in six cities had unemployment rates of 6.75 percent or higher in 1998 -- 50 percent above the national average.

The government researchers contend that rents are rising faster than incomes for the poorest families. More than 5.3 million poor tenants pay more than half their income for rent or live in substandard housing.

Given that the U.S. is thriving economically and the fact that one of HUD's primary missions is funding low-income housing, the report may encounter skeptics in some quarters.

Source: Richard Wolf, "Small, Midsize Cities Not Sharing in Strong U.S. Economy," USA Today, June 11, 1999.


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