It is becoming almost a cliche that millenials (that is, people in their 20s) are flocking to cities. But does data bear this out?
I looked at Census data on two cities that had lost population throughout the late 20th century but gained people in the 2000s: Philadelphia and Washington, DC. (Why them? Because I didn't think population-gaining cities were as interesting, since people of all age groups are moving to those places).
Yesterday's New York Times contained an article about the latest attempt to reform Atlanta's public schools: an eleven-story high school costing about four times as much as the average Southern high school. The city plans to move North Atlanta High, one of the city's more racially diverse high schools, from its existing site in quasi-suburban Buckhead to a larger building at the edge of town.
In the most recent City Journal, Joel Kotkin wrote an article discussing cities' alleged loss of children, and arguing that cities would be more successful in retaining children if only they could be more like low-density suburbs.
One common "story" about the evolution of American cities is that suburban poverty is growing because people are being driven out of high-priced cities into suburbs. One possible implication of this argument is that cities need to be kept poor and stagnant so that poor people can afford them.
Sprawl supporters occasionally argue that sprawl is less crime-ridden than walkable urbanism. But this argument seems to be contradicted by the reality of citywide crime rates: New York, our country's most transit-friendly city, is also one of its safest.
I just used Amazon.com to look inside a new book on suburban poverty ("Confronting Suburban Poverty In America" by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube).
I found the following admission: "[since 2000] poverty rates rose by equal degrees in cities and suburbs (roughly 3 percentage points) though the urban poverty rate remained almost twice as high as the suburban rate". (p. 35). So although the gap between cities and suburbs has narrowed slightly, cities are still more poverty-packed than suburbs.
One result of Detroit's recent bankruptcy has been the usual finger-pointing about the cause of that city's probems. Commonly mentioned culprits include deindustrialization, absence of federal support, and the sprawl-induced decline of urban tax bases. Another common argument (especially among conservatives) is that if only Detroit wasn't governed by liberals, Democrats, etc. it wouldn't have become so overextended.
As many people (including me) have written, minimum parking requirements encourage sprawl by requiring "islands of building surounded by seas of parking." Generally, municipalities trying to end or modify these rules have started with downtowns and worked their way outward.
A recent article discussed in the Atlantic blog suggests that suicide rates increase as density goes down, especially below 300 people per square kilometer (i.e. 777 people per square mile). The title of the article: "The Unsettling Link Between Sprawl and Suicide."