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US cities grow faster than rest of country

REVERSING a decade-long trend, many of the largest American cities are now growing more quickly than the rest of the nation, yet another sign of an economic crisis that is making it harder for people to move.

Census data released yesterday highlight a city resurgence in coastal regions and areas of the Midwest and Northeast, due to a housing crunch, recession and higher gas prices that have slowed migration to far-flung suburbs and residential hot spots in the South and West.

The 2008 population figures show New York and Chicago made gains from higher births, while Philadelphia stanched population losses from earlier in the decade. Also showing rebounds were industrial centers in Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota, Columbus, Ohio, and Lincoln, Nebraska, with economies focused on finance, healthcare, information technology or education. Detroit, with its ailing auto industry, declined.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, all on the West Coast, registered growth, boosted partly by foreign-born immigrants. In contrast, former hot spots in Nevada and Arizona had significant slowdowns, as well as inland regions in California.

"Cities are showing a continued vitality as hubs of activity even as some suburban and exurban areas go through tough times," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. "It emphasizes the buoyancy of large established cities with diverse economies and populations."

Frey and other demographers said many of the population shifts could be longer-lasting. They noted that while the Sunbelt region is still growing, it is unlikely to return to the torrid growth rates of earlier in the decade.

President Barack Obama has pledged to upgrade public transit and push energy conservation, high-speed rail and other urban priorities. That could create shifts in residential patterns and city life, especially for younger couples and small families more likely to move.


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