Urban Intitute

And other lessons learned from a vast new data tool from the Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute today unveiled a far-reaching data dashboard for metropolitan areas all across the U.S. that visualizes datasets – and the connections between them – on a long list of quantifiable aspects of urban life, from local unemployment to crime rates to housing prices. The tool reveals some interesting macro-trends. For one, crime appears to have fallen in many cities during the recession, contradicting the widespread hypothesis that the exact opposite might occur.

The dashboard may be most useful, though, for the comparisons it allows between metro areas on all these metrics. Particularly fascinating is a set of demographic data drawn from the 2010 Census that illustrates population dynamics by age across communities. U.S. cities don't uniformly reflect the age demographics of the nation as a whole. Rather, some metropolitan areas have an inordinate number of young children, or aging seniors, or young professionals. And the following charts from the dashboard illustrate this particularly well.

The patterns in this data hint at much more complex stories about the economic viability of these metro areas, their particular cultural fingerprints and their coming challenges in accommodating an aging population or luring back a younger one. We also simply love these charts for the way they confirm some of our most bald-faced stereotypes about who lives in, say, Naples, Florida (thank you, data!).

This is College Station, Texas, where the population is dramatically skewed by Texas A&M University (the gray lines represent the national average).

Conversely, this is a metro area – Naples – with more than its share of seniors (the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation is particularly noticeable in the national average, with a distinct dip in the late 60s):

Where, we wonder, do all of those old people migrate from?

Cleveland and Detroit, meanwhile, are rust-belt metros that have struggled to keep successful twentysomethings in town. Both of them seem to have a hole right in their demographic center:

Other cities have higher rates of young children. This one came first to mind:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Homes in Amsterdam are pictured.

    Amsterdam's Plan: If You Buy a Newly Built House, You Can't Rent It Out

    In an effort to make housing more affordable, the Dutch capital is crafting a law that says anyone who buys a newly built home must live in it themselves.

  2. Equity

    How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

    American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.

  3. Design

    Cities Deserve Better Than These Thomas Heatherwick Gimmicks

    The “Vessel” at New York’s Hudson Yards—like so many of his designs—look as if the dystopian world of 1984 has been given a precious makeover.

  4. Transportation

    China's 50-Lane Traffic Jam Is Every Commuter's Worst Nightmare

    What happens when a checkpoint merges 50 lanes down to 20.

  5. Equity

    Why Can’t We Close the Racial Wealth Gap?

    A new study says that income inequality, not historic factors, feeds the present-day gulf in wealth between white and black households.