More Americans Moving Back to the City, Flipping Suburban Migration Trends


It used to be that folks would flee the big city in favor of suburbs in an effort to combat the sky-high real estate prices that urban centers traditionally have. People would be willing to spend more money in fuel and more time commuting to the city in order to reap the benefits of cheaper housing and cost of living.

But these days, we’re seeing a flip in this trend, with more Americans migrating back to city centers.

With the economy steadily improving since the economic crisis of 2008, the urban exodus that we’ve been seeing over the years is not only starting to slow down, it’s reversing.

Consider the following stats:

▪           US metro areas were home to approximately 272.7 million people in 2014, up 2.4 million from 2013.

▪           Out of the 381 metro areas in the US, 298 gained in population in 2014.

▪           Metro areas in the US grew by approximately 2.3 million to 269.9 million people in 2014.

▪           Ten US cities now have 1 million or more residents, with San Jose now entering the ranks.

▪           The population growth trends have shifted to the core counties of the 381 metro areas in the US. Between 2006 and 2009, population growth in core counties grew 2.9%, while in outlying counties, it grew 3.6%. The trend reversed between 2010 and 2013, as population growth in core counties grew 2.7%, and only 1.9% in the outskirts.

▪ New York continues to remain the most populated metro area in the US, with approximately 20.1 million Americans calling it home last year. And between 2013 and 2014, the population growth in New York City was higher than the total population growth for the entire state of New York.

▪ Houston, Texas was the top metro area in the US in numerical increase, with 156,371 people added to the population between 2013 and 2014.

What’s contributing to this trend?

In 45 out of the 50 fastest-growing metro centers in the nation, the largest contributor to population growth was net migration, not higher birth rates.

Essentially, two groups are having the biggest effect on the urbanization across the US: young professionals, and baby boomers who are retiring and moving back to the city after they initially left to raise their families.

There is also the trend of young people getting married later in life, thereby delaying having children. These are two major life events that typically spark a move to suburban areas.

The cost to buy a home in the ‘burbs isn’t exactly as affordable as it once was, either. Many young people simply cannot afford the down payment for a home in the city’s outskirts. Continued population influx and density to urban centers can also be attributed to cities’ sizeable investments to infrastructure and transportation.

Regardless of the contributing factors, the trend towards urbanization continues to be a strong one.