TIME cities

U.S. Cities Are Slowing But Suburbs Are Growing

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Texas neighborhood aerial Wesley Hitt—Getty Images

While cities are still outpacing suburbs, the gap is closing

The United States’ biggest cities grew more slowly last year as suburban areas ticked up, according to figures released by the U.S. Census on Thursday, suggesting that city-dwelling Americans may be looking to the suburbs again. While city growth overall is still outpacing the suburbs, the gap between the two is shrinking after several post-recession years in which downtowns and older urban cores around the U.S. saw significant population increases.

“The slowing growth in these urban cores and the increasing gains in the suburbs may be the first indication of a return to more traditional patterns of city-suburban growth,” said University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson.

Of the 51 largest metropolitan regions in the U.S. in 2013, just 18 of them saw faster growth in cities than suburbs in 2013, compared with 25 in 2012.

The new Census figures show significant growth in suburban areas in the South and West. Almost all of the fastest-growing cities with a population of 50,000 or more were suburbs of major cities like Dallas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Nashville and Houston.

Texas suburbs saw the largest growth between 2012 and 2013, especially in areas around Austin, a city millennials have moved to in recent years for its tech jobs and cultural opportunities. The U.S.’s fastest growing city is San Marcos, whose population grew 8% in 2013. Cedar Park and Georgetown were also in the top seven fastest-growing cities, and all three Texas cities surround Austin.

“What you’re seeing, particularly outside of the northeast, is the growth of the ‘boomburbs,’” says Andy Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College. “But you still have substantial growth in the cities. Both are happening.”

Many of the nation’s biggest cities still saw the largest population increases, led by New York City, which added 61,440 people and remained the country’s largest with a population of 8.4 million. Houston, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Phoenix made up the top five in terms of population increases. One curious outlier was Chicago, the nation’s third-largest. Its population in 2013 grew by just 5,900, or 0.2%, to 2,719,000. That was smaller than the 8,600 it gained in 2012. In Chicago’s suburban Cook County, population growth was stable, and it increased in the city’s outer suburbs. Johnson points to Chicago as possibly suggesting an end to rapid city gains over suburban growth.

Historically, Americans have moved from downtown city cores to suburbs as they got older, had children and needed more space. Suburbs grew three times as fast as cities from 2000 to 2010, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. But the recession quickly reversed that as many older Americans felt frozen in place and decided to stay put, temporarily halting that city-to-suburban flow. At the same time, those in their 20s and 30s have flocked to downtowns in that same period, often lured by jobs and the ease of commuting in an urban area.

Since the recession, city growth has largely outpaced suburban growth. From 2011 to 2012, city populations increased by 1.13% while suburbs increased by 0.95%, according to Frey. The new Census numbers show cities growing 1.02% and suburbs growing 0.96%.

But Frey says the U.S. is a long way off from the kind of suburban sprawl it witnessed throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Many of those living in cities have likely decided to stay put for good, Frey says, or are still financially unable to move or buy a house. “We may never see that kind of suburbanization again,” he says.

TIME Japan

Japan Is Desperate to Rescue Its Economy from an Early Grave

General Images of Economy Ahead Of Nationwide Quarterly Land Price Data Release
Pedestrians cross an intersection in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Any less than 100 million people would spell doom for the nation's economy, officials warned, while neglecting one glaringly easy fix

Japan’s battle against gray hairs took an unusual turn this week when the Ministry of Commerce set the very lowest acceptable bound for its aging population: 100 million people. Beyond this point, there lays a “crisis.”

Or so warned Akio Mimura, head of Japan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mimura urged the government to make 100 million the official population target, backed by policies that would promote childrearing. “If we don’t do anything, an extremely difficult future will be waiting for us,” Mimura said.

His concerns are well founded. Japan has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, with each woman bearing an average of 1.4 children. At that rate, demographers project a plunge from 127 million people today to 87 million by 2060, sapping the workforce of its vital young workers and putting an enormous strain on state finances.

The shrinkage has already begun. In 2013, Japan’s population declined by a record-breaking 244,000 people.

All of which has led to some rather creative policy proposals from the Chamber of Commerce, such as retaining 70-year-old’s in the workforce, doubling government expenditures on childcare and encouraging men to ask working women out on a date.

But once again, policymakers dodged the quickest fix, namely to import workers from abroad. The island nation has an outstandingly small number of immigrants. They form less than 2% of the population, compared with a wealthy country average of 11%. Japan could triple the number of foreigners and still not approach the norm among wealthy nations.

Migrants
Source: UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Of course there’s a reason for policymakers’ skittishness around the issue. Immigration reform consistently takes a beating at the polls. One recent survey by Asahi Shimbun newspaper asked respondents if they would accept more immigrants to preserve “economic vitality.” Even with the positive spin, 65% opposed.

Japan Immigration Bureau’s motto is, “internationalization in compliance with the rules.” A simple rule rewrite could alleviate Japan’s demographic fix. It certainly would be easier than prodding the nation’s families to have another 13 million babies. But judging from this week’s presentation from the Chamber of Commerce, it remains politically stillborn.

 

TIME Demographics

More Americans Dying as Birth Rates Hit Record Lows

New Census figures highlight the nation's fertility gap

Thanks to younger Americans delaying having children and an exceptionally large group of Americans reaching mortality, the gap between births and deaths in the U.S. is the smallest it’s been in nearly four decades, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census.

That shrinking surplus is the result of two overlapping trends: millennials are putting off big life decisions like marriage and starting families while their aging parents and grandparents begin to pass away in large numbers. It’s a shift demographers don’t see reversing anytime soon.

“I see no evidence of any upturn in fertility, and deaths continue to grow,” says Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute.

According to the Census, there were 2,541,000 deaths between July 2012 and July 2013, the most on record in one year. In nearly 1,000 counties, more Americans died than were born. Meanwhile, just 3,953,000 people were born during that time — the fewest since 1998. The fertility rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is now 83.1 births per 1,000 women, a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That combination created a gap in births over deaths that is the lowest it has been in 35 years.

The differential could make life even tougher in rural towns that have long been losing population, creating a shortage of young workers for the entry level jobs that help keep those communities afloat.

Demographers are split on the reasons for the declining birth rate. Some blame the lingering effects of the recession, believing that younger people are delaying making larger life choices because they’ve had a hard time gaining a financial foothold. Others see it as part of a broader social shift in which women choose to establish a career before having children.

“I think it’s related to the role of women in the labor force,” says Andrew Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College. “It’s a huge, seismic social shift.”

American deaths will likely continue to rise over the next several decades as Baby Boomers–currently in their 50s and 60s—begin to pass away in larger numbers.“The cohorts born during the Great Depression were very small,” Johnson says. “But those born during the 1940s are larger and are now reaching ages where mortality is beginning to take a toll.”

But there is some good economic news in the latest numbers: Americans appear to be moving again. Mobility is often viewed as a key economic indicator, showing that people have the means to buy a new house or move to switch jobs.

In the latest numbers, suburban counties that surround large urban cores gained 732,000 in population, a 14% increase from the previous year. Cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York all grew, though the overall metro population increase was down 10% from the year before. And rural areas continued their decline, though only slightly, losing 0.1% of their total population, about 28,o00 people.

These figures are closer to the pre-recession patterns in the 2000s, as people migrated from older urban metros to growing suburbs and exurbs.

“The evidence suggests that long-term migration trends—faster growth in the suburbs than in big urban cores and migration to rural recreational and retirement areas—are reviving and reverting to trends more consistent with the pre-recession-era,” Johnson says.

TIME Agriculture

Five Questions with DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman

DuPont has long been known as a chemical company, but Kullman is shifting the 211-year-old corporation towards innovation and agriculture

There’s never a bad time to be named CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but when Ellen Kullman took over the 211-year-old DuPont at the beginning of 2009, things could have been better. The global economy was tanking, sales were dropping and the future was hazy. Fast forward five years later, though, and DuPont is surging. Kullman has transitioned the company away from some of its traditional fields—including the performance chemicals business, best known for its nonstick frying pans and paints—and towards higher growth sectors in high-tech agriculture and nutrition. That shift has worked so far—last month DuPont announced that its fourth-quarter profits had doubled on the back of brisk sales of high-tech seeds and pesticides. I spoke recently with Kullman about the changes at one of America’s iconic companies, the global demographic shifts driving them and the big business of feeding the world’s 7 billion-plus people

TIME: You have been spinning off some business, investing in new ones. How do you see the company changing and what is driving those changes?

Kullman: I started right in the midst of the global financial crisis, so volumes were falling, and the world was not a very secure place. That gave me an opportunity to reflect on the portfolio, to reflect on how science was making a difference for us, how we were connecting to the market. We evolved to a strategy that is focused on science, and ag and nutrition, extending our advanced materials area and then really bringing to life areas like industrial biosciences that I was engaged in over a decade ago.

(MORE: Industrial Farming Slows Climate Change?)

The more I travel around the globe, the more I’m convinced that this strategy is going to lead to higher growth, higher value, greater shareholder value, because of the amount of change that is going on in the world today. We started in sustainability 20 years ago. That’s three CEOs ago. Basically then it was all about footprint reduction. You think about it now with the stressors on the world, sustainability is really important for the future of civilization, if you think about the climate, if you think about food and energy. And we think science can play a huge role in solving some of these problems, in a way that creates shareholder value. We’re much more energy efficient today than we were a decade ago, and we saved billions of dollars by not spending it on energy. But more importantly we can help airframe manufacturers lighten their vehicles or planes, and get higher efficiency out of the energy they’re using. We can help farmers utilize water much more efficiently, like through our AquaMax product, to increase yields in water stressed conditions

TIME: When it comes to ag and science and technology, and especially when it comes to biotech, you see different levels of public acceptance in different countries. How do you deal with the concern people might have for the impacts of bioscience agriculture, which is so basic to human life?

Kullman: I’m believe that countries and people make choices for themselves about what science they accept or don’t accept. And it should be fact based, so they understand [the science] and make those decisions. We as a company need to be relevant whether they choose to utilize the technology or not. I believe in the science. When you think about GMOs, I spend a lot of time on them, and I understand them. But I understand that my telling people on faith may not carry the day. They need to see it, understand it, [and we need to] arm them with facts, educate them, and let them make their choices.

We have a large business in agriculture in non-GMO seed in Europe [where GMO technology is less accepted]. We’ll be relevant there, regardless of the technology choices they make. We’ll ensure that they have the right studies and tests done to help that.

TIME: How do you deal with the differing regulation on this issue around the world, on biotech and on things like biofuel, where policy has a big impact on how the business grows?

Kullman: We are operating in an increasingly regulated world. We would certainly love to see a more harmonized regulatory environment around the world, to see that getting something approved in India is the same as getting it approved in America or China. That’s just more efficient. But I do think that we do have to participate in the process from a regulatory standpoint. We workwith different governments around the world to share information and to inform them, so when they consider laws and regulations, they do so from a standpoint of data and information that helps them make the right decision.

(MORE: Can Urban Beekeeping Stop the Beepocalypse?)
TIME: Within agriculture, you mentioned this enormous demand coming from parts of the developing world, and this yield gap, between what farms can do in Iowa versus farms in places like eastern Europe or sub-Saharan Africa. Is the aim eventually that farming in those parts of the world will come to resemble farming in America, or will there still be regional differences?

Kullman: Food is phenomenally local, and there are cultural differences that you have to comprehend. We need a common language, because people talk about this area in so many different ways. In the fall I was in an area in northeast China, above North Korea, part of the corn belt there. You drive along a road and you’re seeing an area that looks damn close to what you might find in the rolling hills [of Iowa], and then you find out the corn is all hand sown and hand harvested. That each farmer owns or gets the ability to farm a certain number of mous—about a tenth of an acre. And you go sit with a farmer or a family and you talk about farming, and they’re doing pretty well under their historic methodology in farming that is very labor intensive. But they know that has to change, and they know they need to mechanize. And that is very different there than what you’d find in India, or in Tanzania. It will always be different, but there’s a big gap that can be crossed from a productivity standpoint in agriculture that shouldn’t be lost on us. And I think it creates huge economic opportunity in places like sub-Saharan Africa, as farmers go from subsistence farming to farming with an income.

TIME: You mentioned sustainability as a big part of what you do. That word has a lot of different meaning for a lot of different people. When you say sustainability, what does it mean? Is it just efficiency or does it go beyond that?

Kullman: Sustainable means selecting for a long time, so [what you produce] can withstand the rigors of the world, while allowing the environment to continue to be plentiful and grow. I think that whole area is evolving greatly, and as the regulatory environment changes, people become concerned about how the future looks, and the part that each of us plays. There’s real opportunity. Think about cellulosic biofuels. First generation biofuels are in use, but what’s really sustainable are second or third generation biofuels that utilize plant waste and things like that. This is an area that is not just something to do to create real value for our customers and for our company going forward. We don’t have all the answers but I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.

(MORE: Can Urban Beekeeping Stop the Beepocalypse?)

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