The 2010s Didn't Live Up to Potential as the 'Decade of the City'

The renaissance predicted for urban areas in the United States started strong during the 2010s but slowed in the years leading up to a potentially generation defining pandemic.

2 minute read

May 27, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Growth Chart

Shutterstock, Inc / Shutterstock

New population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau "show that the nation’s large cities experienced uneven growth trajectories over the last decade," according to an article by William Frey. 

"In the last several years, many cities registered growth slowdowns and declines while the rest of the country rebounded from the Great Recession and the population dispersed toward suburbs and smaller areas," according to Frey's summary of the data. "Some cities grew more rapidly than their surrounding suburbs in the early 2010s, but for many, this is no longer the case."

The analysis breaks down by city size, with population figures for cities with more than 1 million residents (10 cities), cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million (27 cities), and cities with populations between 250,000 and 500,000 (52 cities). Frey also provides analysis of specific cities within that first, largest group, and explains why growth slowed in the nation's largest cities, shifting to suburban locations, in the second half of the decade.

As for what the future holds, Frey offers this speculation:

There are a lot of unknowns, making this difficult to predict. But it is worth noting that big cities registered their highest growth rates during the down economy and deflated housing market in the wake of the Great Recession. Thus, there is a possibility that young adults—both millennials and Gen Z—may again gravitate to big cities as the pandemic recedes and gives way to a recovering economy.

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