- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

The populations of older, major U.S. cities have rebounded in recent years, largely as a 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 increase 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 declined during the early part of the decade but increased by 20,606 from mid-2007 to mid-2008.

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 to cities.

George Overstreet, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, said one possible explanation is that an oversupply of condominiums — after the housing crisis — 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 from 545,141 in 2007 to 551,789 in 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 hit in 2005.

The city’s population was 311,853 in July 2008 — compared with 210,768 in 2006 and the prehurricane level of 484,674 in 2000.

Washington, the country’s 27th largest city by population, added 3,965 residents, from 587,868 in 2007 to 591,833 in 2008.

Alexandria, in Northern Virginia, was the 20th fastest-growing U.S. city. The 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, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland at College Park, 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 in December 2007 and near the end of the housing-market collapse, which has led other experts to suggest that people are moving to where the jobs are and that the housing bust was followed by businesses not expanding into the suburbs.

However, the population increased by 16.3 percent in Las Vegas, among the cities hardest hit by the housing collapse. In 2000, there were 484,480 residents, but in 2008, there were 558,383 residents.

Flint, Mich., was among the cities with the biggest losses from 2000 to 2008. The city, whose economy 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.

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