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D.C. Area Hits Uptick as Recession Peters Out

Carol Morello and Patricia Sullivan explore the recent population spike in Washington, D.C., part of a nationwide trend toward "an urban renaissance."
June 30, 2012, 11am PDT | Ryan Lue
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Growth in the capital and its surrounding suburbs has picked up the pace over the past two years, according to recently released census figures. In fact, the District added 16,000 new residents in the 15 months following the 2010 Census.

"That's more than half as many new residents as the District gained in the entire decade of the 2000s," note Morello and Sullivan, "and it makes the District one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States." Perhaps more importantly, the figures "show most big cities in the country growing faster than the suburbs for the first time in decades."

Demographer William H. Frey argues that, in the short-term, the data signify a cultural shift back toward the city: "They're all magnets for young people. There's a there there. These are places that have attractive urban environments, with amenities as well as jobs. Young people can have a life there; they're not just daytime cities."

But even in Alexandria, Va., which the Census Bureau identified as one of the fastest-growing big cities in the country, city officials met the good news with a dose of skepticism. Karl Moritz, the city's deputy planning director, "said census estimates have proved overly optimistic in the past. Just three years ago, the census pegged Alexandria's population at 150,000 - 10,000 more than were counted a year later in the 2010 Census."

Said Moritz, "There's nothing we can see to suggest we've had an acceleration of growth in the past 15 months."

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Published on Thursday, June 28, 2012 in Washington Post
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