Population of American downtowns rose 10 percent during the 1990s

The population of American downtowns rose 10 percent during the 1990s, reversing 20 years of decline, according to a new study by Eugenie L. Birch of the University of Pennsylvania’s planning school. Birch examined downtown population, household, and income trends in 44 cities from 1970 to 2000 for a Brookings Institution report, “Who Lives Downtown.” She found that the number of downtown households grew 13 percent in the 1990s, reflecting a proliferation of smaller households made up of singles, unrelated individuals living together, and childless married couples. “In general, downtowns boast a higher percentage of both young adults and college-educated residents than the nation’s cities and suburbs,” she said. By 2000, nearly a quarter of downtown residents were people aged 25 to 34. Since 1970, the rate of homeownership among downtown residents has more than doubled, to 22 percent, in the cities she studied. It reached 41 percent in the downtown with the highest rate: Chicago. The report is posted at www.brookings.edu/metro.