A new study from Rutgers University suggests that recently the New York metro area's suburbanization trend might have leveled off or even declined:
In terms of population, the region overall remained largely unchanged from 1969 to 1990, rising slightly from 19.6 million residents to 19.9 million, with 53.9 percent living in the suburban ring, and 46.9 percent in the core. But within the region, a dramatic shift toward the suburbs was taking place during that period, when the core lost 7.8 percent of its population, or 771,116 people, while the ring gained 11.2 percent, or 1.1 million.
But the core's population grew by 9.1 percent, or 836,000 people, from 1990 to 2001, matching the suburban growth rate over the same period.
In terms of employment, the suburban ring grew by 56.2 percent from 1969 to 1996, for a net gain of 2.2 million jobs, compared with a 6.6 percent decrease in jobs in the core during the same period.
But that trend was also reversed during the period from 1996 to 2001, when employment in the core grew by 9.1 percent, and also matched the suburban growth rate in jobs.
Doesn't exactly seem like the end of sprawl, particularly since New York is already very sprawling. After all, this study examined 31 counties. Still, it will be interesting to see how our aging population affects development patterns. I can see how downsizing and moving to the city would appeal to many retirees (although I don't know if Richard Florida considers old folks hip). What would be particularly interesting is to see what would happen if governments removed all the barriers and subsidies that sometimes favor sprawl and sometimes favor higher density development.