While there is all kind of debate regarding city vs. suburb growth, this decade has seen metro health increasingly tied to core city health. The correlation between population growth in core cities and their respective MSAs for the 2010’s is .90, which is exceptionally high. This holds up for the Sunbelt, the West, the Northeast, and the Midwest, though small population changes there distort some of the city growth/MSA growth ratios.
From 1950 to 2000, the two were often inversely correlated, with many cities declining in growing metros. But this trend has reversed, with one of the most impacted cities of the post-war period, DC, now growing more than 1.5x faster than its suburbs. Overall, most cities are now growing between .8x and 1.5x the rate of their MSAs.
Individual metro growth rates are notorious for moving up and down, as regional economic strength ebbs and flows, or is impacted by the heavy presence of particular industries. But as regions become more strongly linked to their core cities, they could increasingly become dependent on further strengthening those cities. No one 30 years ago would have predicted such a strong resurgence for DC, especially during a period of sequestration and defense cuts.
Another important consideration is that many of the fastest growing cities aren’t cheap. Seattle is now growing faster than Atlanta, at both the city and MSA levels, in spite of median home prices that are twice as high. Similarly, Denver is growing faster than Phoenix in spite of home prices that are about 50% higher.
While regions are notoriously poor at coordinating economic development across jurisdictions, suburbs appear to becoming more closely tied to their core cities, and could likely benefit from boosting them further.
While correlation does not prove causation, this is one hell of a correlation.
|Core City % Growth 2010-2015||MSA % Growth 2010-2015||City/MSA Growth Ratio||Difference|