Trends Since 2000

In the first decade of this century the population decline of the nation's largest cities appeared to come to a halt. Of the 50 largest cities in the United States in 2010 only three—Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland—lost population between 2000 and 2010. All three are in the north-central region of the nation. In the case of the biggest loser, Detroit, the loss of jobs in automobile manufacturing was clearly a major factor.

The nation's biggest city, New York, actually gained almost 400,000 people across the decade. A big factor in New York's demographic turnaround was the nation's high rate of immigration. The outmigration of the native-born population was more than compensated by immigration, both legal and illegal. Perhaps, also, the growth of world trade or, more generally, what we refer to as globalization contributed to the city's growth by increasing employment in trade and finance-related activities.11

Exactly why the decline in many other large cities stopped is not entirely certain. One factor may have been the changing shape of the U.S. population. With a smaller share of the population in the family-formation age the relative push to suburbanization may have been reduced. Immigration, as noted, has been a factor in some cases.

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