The populations of older, major U.S. cities have rebounded in recent years, largely the result of people arriving everywhere from overseas to nearby suburbs.
New York, the country’s most populous city, had the biggest increase from mid-2007 to mid-2008, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Wednesday. The city added 53,000 residents to bring its population to 8.4 million. That was nearly twice as many people as the country’s second-most-populous city, Los Angeles, with 3.8 million.
Chicago was third with 2.9 million. That city’s population had declined during the early part of the decade but increase by 20,606 during the 2007-08 period.
Census demographer Greg Harper said New York’s increase was the result of international immigration and “natural increases,” or more births than deaths.
However, he said, the agency does not attempt to explain the economics or the behavioral theory behind why people are returning the cities.
George Overstreet, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s McIntyre School of Commerce, said one possible explanation is that an oversupply of condominiums has reduced prices enough for residents to return to cities.
He also cited urban renewal projects in such places as Oklahoma City, which increased its population by 9 percent from 2007 to 2008.
“People want to play and live where they work,” he said. “Driving from one end of a mall to the other, or across a four-lane highway to get to another mall, maybe people don’t want to live like that anymore.”
New Orleans was the country’s fastest-growing city in 2008. The population grew 8.2 percent in 2008, largely because of people returning after Hurricane Katrina.
The city’s population was 311,853 in July 2008 — compared with 210,768 after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and the pre-hurricane level of 484,674 in 2000.
Washington, the country’s 27th-largest city by population, added 3,965 residents, to 591,000 residents, during the 2007-08 period — a 3.5 percent increase.
Alexandria was the 20th-fastest-growing U.S. city. The Northern Virginia city’s population increased by 4,037, to 143,885 during the period, according to the Census Bureau.
Mr. Harper said the increase was the result of a domestic influx, or people arriving from outlying areas.
Larry Hajime Shinagawa, a University of Maryland American studies professor, called the trend “new urbanism.”
“We are entering a postmodern era,” he said. “In this hyperpaced world, people want everything integrated. They want their gym and movie theater near their home. It’s buildings with stores on ground floors and condos on top. It’s a trend that is happening in Paris, Japan, across the world.”
The Census Bureau survey began about five months before the recession started and near the end of the housing-market collapse, which has led other experts to suggest that people are moving where the jobs are and that the housing bust was followed by businesses not expanding into suburbs.
However, the population increased by 16.3 percent in Las Vegas, among the cities hardest hit by the housing collapse.
Flint, Mich., was among the cities with the biggest losses from 2000 to 2008. The city, economy of which relies on the auto industry, lost 9.6 percent of its population. Other hard-hit cities over that period were Cleveland; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Pittsburgh.