Suburban Population Growth and Decline: The Emergence of New Patterns in the 1990s

Avery M. Guest, University of Washington

By the 1970s, about one-third of U.S. suburbs (urban places outside central cities in metropolitan areas) were actually losing population. Differential patterns of loss by community social characteristics were quite evident; declining populations were especially found in older metropolitan areas, and were especially evident in inner suburbs in older metropolitan areas. Census data from the 1990s show clear changes in these patterns. First, overall patterns of loss have sharply declined. Second, patterns of suburban population growth and decline are somewhat less correlated than in the past with commonly emphasized social characteristics of communities. Third, a distinct pattern of renewed suburban growth is found in the suburbs that were most likely to be characterized by loss in the 1970s, the 'inner' communities in the oldest metropolitan areas. In this respect, the well-known renewal or revitalization of central city neighborhoods may have also 'passed over' to nearby suburban communities.

Presented in Session 70: Census 2000: New Trends