Downtowns are Booming (Sometimes)

MLewyn's picture

The University of Virginia just created a set of tables based on recent Census data.  These tables measure the affluence, age, etc. of neighborhoods measured by miles from downtown.  For example, in Chicago, the neighborhoods within a mile of downtown have the highest per capita income in the region (though I wonder what the results would have been had the researchers focused on household income) and the number of occupied household units has doubled.  However, downtown's poverty rate has dropped only slightly (from 18 percent to 16 percent) since 1990.

However, Chicago is atypical.  In a composite of the 50 largest metro areas, the downtown population has increased but only by about 10 percent or so (from 1.31 million to 1.44 million); poverty rates are actually higher than the mile surrounding downtown than anywhere else.  But even in the national composite, per capita incomes have risen faster downtown, and are higher downtown, than anywhere else.

Some cities still lag behind the national trend.  In Detroit, for example, incomes declined in every ring less than 30 miles from downtown, and decreased by more than the regional average in the first mile from downtown.  And despite all the positive publicity about urban Detroit, downtown population actually decreased. (Caveat: the estimates are based on 2008-12 five year estimates, so it may be that this data is just behind the times).


Write your comments in the box below and share on your Facebook!