NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Growth Slows in America's Urban Cores

March 10, 2011

The ongoing Census reveals the continuing evolution of America's cities from small urban cores to dispersed, multipolar regions that includes the city's surrounding areas and suburbs.  To date the Census shows that growth in America's large core cities has slowed, and in some cases even reversed.  This has happened both in great urban centers such as Chicago and in the long-distressed inner cities of St. Louis and Baltimore, says Joel Kotkin, executive editor of

None of this suggests, however, that the American urban core is in a state of permanent decline.  The urban option will continue to appeal to a small but growing segment of the population, and certain highly paid professionals, notably in finance, will continue to cluster there.  So what does this tell us about the future of the American urban region?

  • Dispersion is continuing virtually everywhere, and with it, a movement of the economic center of gravity away from the city centers in most regions.
  • But in another way these patterns augur a bright future for an expansive American metropolis that, while not hostile to the urban center, recognizes that most businesses and families continue to prefer lower-density, decentralized settings.

The sooner urbanists and planners can accommodate themselves to this fact, the sooner we can work on making these new dynamic patterns of residence and employment more sustainable and livable for the people and companies who will continue to gravitate there, says Kotkin.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "The Protean Future Of American Cities,", March 7, 2011.

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