In our most recent newsletter, we reviewed changes in population among American cities (metropolitan areas) since 2019, a short but important period of change.  In this issue, we take a look at the longer-term trends; how our cities have shifted over the 22 years from 2000 to 2022.  (More data can be found in our previous newsletters here.)  Please share this newsletter with everyone you think might be interested.
Our prior analysis looked at cities by 11 regions and by city size, arranged in five size groups, labelled A to E.  Here is a key table for understanding the longer, 22-year picture:

All American metro areas combined grew by 22.4% in this period.  This growth resulted from births minus deaths plus net domestic and international migration.  Any city falling shy of 22.4% growth lost share among the cities; those above 22.4% gained share.  Very few cities actually shrunk over this long period of time.

The numbers that pop out in the above table are the 40%+ growth rate of the cities in the Mountain States, Florida, and, most impressive, Texas at 50.1%. 

The Midwest and Northeast did the worst, at under 11% growth, with California and Hawaii not doing much better.  Almost every city size group in those areas grew more slowly than the 22.4% national average.

Equally interesting, and less-studied, is the way Americans are shifting from the largest cities to smaller ones, a trend that accelerated since 2019 as indicated in our recent newsletter.  Cities in our “Group D” – with initial year 2000 populations between 250,000 and 750,000, grew the fastest, at 26.8%, followed closely by Group C cities (750,000 to 2.5 million) and Group B (2.5 to 5 million).  The six giant Group A cities (over 5 million) and the smallest Group E cities (under 250,000) did the worst, both under 17%.

Nevertheless, these patterns differed substantially by region.  The two Texas giants Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston grew 54.7% from already huge bases.  Only two groups grew faster: the 8 Mountain state cities with populations of 250,000 to 750,000 (Group D) grew 58.8% and Texas’ 2 Group C cities, Austin and San Antonio, grew an astounding 71.4%.  Next best is the 50.9% growth of Florida’s 12 Group D (250-750,000) cities.  (Details on specific cities are shown below.)

While these numbers are driven by births and deaths, much of the difference between cities is because of migration – people arriving or leaving.  It appears that when people move to the Southeast (outside of Group B Atlanta, up 46.5%), they prefer to move to smaller communities.  The Mountain states are similar – strong growth in biggies Phoenix and Denver, but even faster growth for those cities between 250,000 and 750,000 (Group D).  Like the Mountain states and the Northwest, Florida’s fastest growing cities were in that same size group D. 

Whereas Texas’ boom was in the four largest cities in the state.  Thus, the greatest growth is not just in the smaller cities, but also in some of the biggest.  People may be fleeing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but they are moving in droves to Dallas and Houston.  While the Texas cities are drawing from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, they must be drawing massive numbers from smaller cities, which is every city on the list except those three.  Many moved from New Orleans to Houston and the rest of Texas after Katrina.  And the Texas cities under 750,000 have less spectacular numbers, under 30% growth. 

If you want the amenities of a giant, you head to Texas, as well as Phoenix, Atlanta, and a few others.  But if you want to get away from all that and live in a smaller community, you head to the Mountain states, the Northwest, the Southeast, or Florida.  Even the Dakotas and Iowa in our broadly-defined Midwest.

Those conclusions are reinforced if we look at population increases in absolute numbers, not just the percentage growth.  Numerical increases by region and size group are shown in this table:

These 359 cities added 52 million people in the 22 years.  Over half of that growth was in cities between 250,000 and 2.5 million (Groups C and D).  Yet the biggest single number on the page is the 5.4 million people added to Dallas and Houston.  The 31 Southeast Group D cities (250-750,000) added over 4 million, the next biggest change.  California added 5.1 million to all its cities combined, starting from a high base number.  Florida growth is everywhere except the smallest cities.  A surprise is the 2.8 million growth of the 11 Group C cities in the Midwest, far more than any other size group in the Midwest. 

This table showing what percentage of each region’s growth came from each size Group emphasizes the same story – Dallas and Houston representing 60% of the population increase of all Texas cities, 83.5% if you include Group C Austin and San Antonio:

Here is a similar table but looking at each region’s share of the national growth of cities within each size Group.  Dallas and Houston received 59.2% of all American giant city growth.

Also note the strength of smaller cities in the Southeast.  You have a lot of those cities to choose from:

City Lists

Within those broad trends, every city has its own factors, dynamics, industries, and personality.  Start with this list of the 40 largest metropolitan areas today, keeping in mind that cities which grew more than 22.4% beat the national average for cities while those below 22.4% lost share of our urban population:

Next, the 25 cities that grew the most in numbers from 2000 to 2022, with Austin adding almost as many people as New York did, Charlotte adding more than New York, and Dallas and Houston each adding twice as many people as New York:

Here are the next 25 cities on the list of those which added the most population:

Here are the cities that added the fewest (or lost the most) over the 22 years (poor Parkersburg!):

More exciting, the 25 cities that grew the fastest, including the surprisingly (to me) large Cape Coral, Boise, and Lakeland:

And the second 25 fastest growing:

This map reflects the preceding data:

All Metropolitan Areas by Region, Ranked by Growth Percent





Southeast (in 3 tables)


Midwest (3 tables)

Northeast (2 tables)

Please send us any comments or thoughts on all this data by replying to this email.

Thanks for your readership; please share this newsletter with everyone you think might be interested.

Gary Hoover
Executive Director
American Business History Center

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