Bloomberg carried a chart-laden article recently, written by Justin Fox, showing the disparate population growth rates in Northeastern and Midwestern cities. It charts the differences in growth rate distribution along the coasts, where three large metro areas are generating nearly all the population growth, and in the Midwest, where growth rates are more evenly distributed.
Here’s the chart showing the Midwestern cities, with MSP highlighted.
Fox’s point is about how those differences in distribution reveal some contrasting economic and demographic patterns.
The Midwest and the Northeast are the slow-growing regions of the U.S., with estimated population increases of 1.9 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, from 2010 through 2017, according to the Census Bureau (compared with 7.9 percent for the South and 7.6 percent for the West). 1
They’re growing slowly in very different ways, though. As I discovered last week while working on a column about booming Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the Midwest has 23 metropolitan areas that have matched or exceeded the national population growth rate of 5.5 percent since 2010, while the Northeast has just two, Boston and State College, Pennsylvania. Yet population is growing faster overall in the Northeast than in the Midwest. That’s pretty weird.
What’s behind the disparity? My first thought was that perhaps the rural Midwest is still losing lots of residents to cities and their suburbs, while in the Northeast that process has mostly played out already. But it turns out the population outside of metropolitan areas has actually fallen faster in the Northeast since 2010 than in the Midwest. 2
No, the difference seems to be mainly that more than half the Northeast’s population lives in just three metropolitan areas, and all three have grown at or faster than the regional 2.2 percent rate since 2010.
Fox concludes by saying that “the Midwest, after having a generally awful time of it in the 2000s, now has a lot of interesting things going on economically and demographically.” Given that MSP is one of the Midwestern metros that’s leading the pack in terms of these growth numbers, that’s encouraging news for the regional economy. It might also point to how Midwestern urban areas seem to lack the extremes that mark the rapidly-growing large coastal cities.