Sunbelt cities like Houston are attracting a lot more people, and growing more rapidly than many cities in the North. Flickr/Thomas Hawk

The Sunbelt is where it’s at.

The U.S. Census Bureau released population estimates today that reveal America’s urban growth patterns over the last year. One of the big takeaways from an analysis of the data is that while people still throng to destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, many cities in the Sunbelt are overtaking these urban hotspots in terms of population growth.

Here’s a table showing the 11 cities that are comparable in size to San Francisco but showed more growth—both in raw population number and percentage change—from 2013 to 2014:

Mark Byrnes / CityLab

The cities on this list are by no means the fastest growing cities in America. Some smaller towns have exhibited more staggering growth rates, partly because they have more room to grow. San Marcos, Texas, for example, grew at a whopping 7.9 percent rate, from 54,567 residents in 2013 to 58,892 in 2014. It’s been the fastest growing city for three consecutive years.

But we didn’t want to compare apples to oranges, so we excluded those cities in our comparison with San Francisco, which has a sizable population (mid- 800,000) and has seen significant growth (1.3 percent). The cities we did compare have around the same, or more residents than San Francisco.

The above chart points out a key demographic trend: while population growth in the Sunbelt is picking up pace, growth in the most populous Northern metros has been slower.

The Sunbelt metros weren’t doing so well when the recession started, but in the last couple of years, this region has seen an expanding job market and an increase in affordable housing stock. Both factors have been drawing young people and minorities to the sunny south, explains Brookings’ demographer William Frey. Today’s Census data suggests that cities in states such as Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina have experienced massive growth spurts as a result. Nine of the 11 big cities that have outpaced San Francisco’s growth are in the Sunbelt region.

In fact, Sunbelt cities might be stealing residents away from more populous and more expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles. Today’s data shows that growth in these two cities has decreased, compared with previous years. In a blog post today, Frey illustrated this slowdown in the following chart:

(The Brookings Institution/William Frey)

Here’s Frey explaining why people are packing their bags for Sunbelt metros again, in a blog post from last month:

The substantial flows out of New York and Los Angeles that were occurring before the recession were curtailed significantly during the downturn. Many “would be movers” stayed put as jobs and affordable housing dried up elsewhere, but now those two coastal metropolitan areas, along with many Snow Belt locations, are experiencing increased out-migration as opportunities once again open up outside their lines.

And, of course, the sunny weather doesn’t hurt.  

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  2. an aerial view of Los Angeles shows the complex of freeways, new construction, familiar landmarks, and smog in 1962.
    Transportation

    The Problem With Amazon’s Cheap Gas Stunt

    The company promoted its TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with a day of throwback 1959-style prices in Los Angeles. What could go wrong?

  3. Two women wave their phones in the air at a crowded music festival.
    Life

    The Rise, and Urbanization, of Big Music Festivals

    The legacy of hippie Woodstock is the modern music-festival economy: materialist, driven by celebrities and social media, and increasingly urban.

  4. A rendering of Oakland, California, that replaces Interstate 980 with a surface boulevard
    Transportation

    Here Are the Urban Highways That Deserve to Die

    The Congress for New Urbanism once again ranks the most-loathed urban freeways in North America—and makes the case for tearing them down.

  5. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

×