May 10, 2010

Social changes since 2000, especially the increase in racial and ethnic minorities, are altering regional stereotypes and changing the traditional portrait of the nation.

The US is starting to see a major population shift as the suburbs are now more likely to be the home of minorities, the poor and the boomer-generation, as the young white educated populations move from the ‘burbs to urban centres for jobs and shorter commute times.

This information comes from the Brookings Institution, which completed an analysis of 2000-2008 census data, and comments on the demographic “tipping points” of the past decade, and potential problem areas in the 100 largest metro areas (2/3 of the US population) for the near future.

According to the Huffington Post:

Suburbs still tilt white. But, for the first time, a majority of all racial and ethnic groups in large metro areas live outside the city. Suburban Asians and Hispanics already had topped 50 percent in 2000, and blacks joined them by 2008, rising from 43 percent in those eight years.

Suburbs are home to the vast majority of baby boomers age 55 to 64, a fast-growing group that will strain social services after the first wave of boomers turns 65 next year.

Analysts attribute the racial shift to suburbs in many cases to substantial shares of minorities leaving cities, such as blacks from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Whites, too, are driving the trend by returning or staying put in larger cities.

Washington, D.C., and Atlanta posted the largest increases in white share since 2000, each up 5 percentage points to 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Other white gains were seen in New York, San Francisco, Boston and cities in another seven of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.

“A new image of urban America is in the making,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings who co-wrote the report. “What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into ‘bright flight’ to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation and a new city ambiance as an attraction.”

“This will not be the future for all cities, but this pattern in front runners like Atlanta, Portland, Ore., Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Texas, shows that the old urban stereotypes no longer apply,” he said.

The suburbs now have the largest poor population in the country. According to the analysis, between 1999 and 2008, the suburban poor grew by 25 percent; five times the growth rate of the poor in cities. During that same time period, the median household income in the U.S. declined by $2,241.

As metropolitan areas grow, the report said it is increasingly difficult to categorize them along traditional regional lines, such as “Sun Belt” or “Rust Belt.” As such, the report created seven categories for the 100 largest metropolitan areas that it said reflect the growing differences. According to Bloomberg, these seven categories include:

1. “Next Frontier” areas exceed national averages on population growth, diversity and educational attainment. Of these, eight are west of the Mississippi River, with Washington, D.C., being the exception.

2. “New Heartland” areas are fast growing and highly educated and have lower proportions of Hispanics and Asians. The 19 metropolitan areas include many in the “New South,” such as Atlanta and Charlotte.

3. “Diverse Giant” areas include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. They have above-average educational attainment and diversity, while recording below-average population growth.

4. “Border Growth” areas are mostly located in southern states and have a growing presence of Mexican and Latin American immigrants.

5. “Mid-Sized Magnet” areas have experienced high growth, while recording a lower proportion of Hispanic and Asian residents, as well as lower educational attainment. Many of these 15 metropolitan areas are in the southeastern U.S.

6. “Skilled Anchors” are slower growing, less diverse areas that have higher-than-average levels of educational attainment. Of the 19 included, 17 lie in the Northeast or Midwest and include Boston, Philadelphia and Worcester, Massachusetts.

7. Industrial Cores, such as Detroit, Cleveland and New Orleans, are mostly older industrial centers in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast. Their populations are slower-growing, less diverse, less educated and older and as a whole they lost population during the 2000s.

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