America's Expanding Cities

Nate Berg explains why recent headlines about the rise of the country's urban population shouldn't have smart growth advocates claiming victory just yet.
March 30, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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It seems that the recently released census figures provide some interesting findings regarding the quality of America's urban population growth, and not just its quantity. As Berg explains, it appears as our appetites for urban living have continued to grow, so has the sheer size of many cities and urban areas.

According to Berg, between 2000 and 2010, "There were 29 [cities] that saw increases of 100 square miles or more. And 76 saw increases of 50 square miles or more." Although Atlanta led the pack with the largest absolute increase in its urban area (nearly 683 square miles), four of the top ten growing cities are in Texas.

To what is this expansion attributable? Kevin Hawley, a geographer at the Census Bureau, looks to the continued outward growth of suburbs. "These growing urban areas aren't just cities extending their borders, according to Hawley, but rather clusters of urban development on the fringes of cities that are growing towards each other. As two areas spread out and get closer together, the space in between 'gets sort of swallowed as growth between the two areas happens,' Hawley says."

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Published on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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