I started noticing (and commenting around these parts) that the 'urbanization' movement of kids headed to big cities had petered out and reversed in census data by 2016. That year, suburbs grew faster than urban areas again, as they have for the decades before the great recession. I'm not the only one who picked up on this. But the general media narrative hasn't caught up to reality yet.

So I posited a very simple hypothesis: The "back to the cities" movement, especially among millenials, was a reaction to the Great Recession. Not a trend. Not a lifetime choice. Might think of it as a temporary way to ride out high unemployment near corporate HQs. Might think of it as a fun way to sow some wild outs in your 20s. The reasons are less interesting to me than the reality of where people are moving.

And to that effect, in new data, NYC is back to losing population for the first time since before the Great Recession, led by Brooklyn. LA dropped not just in the city, but the whole of LA metro area & LA county is net down for the first time by about 10-15k people. Chicago has lost population for 4 straight years now. Cleveland's down again. Philly and Boston are not negative yet, but are slowing down. Places growing fastest are usual suspects, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Orlando, but also Seattle, Austin, Riverside, DC. But even in that list, for most growth is slowing compared to past years in the 2000s and 2010s.

What's growing instead? For urban areas, weird places. Mid-size places. Think Boise City Idaho. Lakeland Florida. Midland Texas. Bend Oregon. St. George Utah. Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Greeley Colorado. Otherwise, rural and suburban areas.

Anyways, it's a pretty dramatic trend reversal we're only a couple years into. But it seems to be accelerating. You know me. I like spotting accelerating trends early. This one has held for 3 years now. If it keeps up, there are a lot of consequences that will come from it.

A lot of market-based neoliberal econ policy hits mid-income big city dwellers especially hard. Congestion pricing. Variable (and much higher) parking meter pricing. Sin taxes. Luxury construction & elimination or reform of rent control. Sugar taxes. Variable (and higher) fees for services like subways and busses. On and on it goes. It makes cost of living even more prohibitive, and always punishes the middle. Eventually they vote with their feet. And I think we're starting to see that.

Funnily enough, I think the way out could be much faster than the way in too. It's generally more cost prohibitive to save up the $$$ needed to move into a high-rent big city than to move out of one to somewhere where housing is cheaper. And as cities lose population, they tend to start jacking up fees and taxes even more to cover budget shortfalls inevitable from fewer people living there, which can exacerbate the process of people moving out.

Should be an interesting time. Might be a renaissance moment coming up for a few beleaguered smaller cities and suburbs who haven't fared so well these past 15 years.