Medium-sized cities outpace growth in big metros, census report says

Paul Brinkmann
Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, according to census figures. Photo by Stuart Seeger/Wikimedia Commons
Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, according to census figures. Photo by Stuart Seeger/Wikimedia Commons

ORLANDO, Fla., April 18 (UPI) -- Medium-sized metro areas in the United States are outpacing growth in the largest metropolitan areas, U.S. Census data released Thursday morning shows.

The two strongest examples of the trend, according to the bureau, are Austin, Texas, and Orlando, Fla. Both cities experienced large numeric increases in population since 2010, rivaling growth in areas with much larger populations. Two other metros not among the 10 largest in the nation also saw similar growth in sheer numbers -- Phoenix and Seattle.


The New York and Chicago areas, which rank first and third nationally in size, respectively, did not appear on the top 10 list of metro areas with the biggest number growth so far this decade. Orlando ranked No. 10 on that list, adding 438,560 people since 2010; the New York metro area by comparison added 412,950 people.

The Orlando metro area, which includes Sanford, Kissimmee and other suburbs, ranked No. 23 in the nation for overall population in 2017. The Austin area ranked No. 31.

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For year-over-year growth, the Orlando metro area in central Florida grew to an estimated 2.57 million people in 2018, an increase of 60,045 or 2.33 percent. That was the fifth-largest increase among U.S. cities in sheer numbers for the year.


"This trend is consistent with the overall growth we are seeing in the South and the West," Sandra Johnson, demographer with the Census Bureau, said in a news release. She called the growth one of the more interesting new trends in U.S. population changes.

Duncan Dickson, professor at Orlando's Rosen College of Hospitality, said growth of medium-sized cities, especially in the South, is about climate and quality of life.

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Telecommuting trends are partly to credit, Dickson said, meaning more people feel they can live wherever they want to -- not necessarily where they grew up or where their employer is based.

"Austin's growth is about quality of life and higher-paying jobs there," Dickson said. "In Orlando, people just like to be here, and our airport has more flights than other cities our size. I can get to New York nonstop, and Frankfurt or Dubai nonstop."

Two of the 10 fastest-growing metro areas in 2018 are in Texas: Midland (first), with a growth of 4.3 percent (7,383) and Odessa (fifth), with a growth of 3.2 percent (4,951). Positive domestic migration contributed to the gains in both areas.

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Florida and Utah each contain two of the fastest-growing metro areas in 2018.


Over a one-year period, Orange County, Fla. , (where Orlando is situated) was No. 7 in the nation for numeric population growth, adding 27,208 people. Hillsborough County in the Tampa area was No. 10 for numeric growth, adding 26,773.

For year-over-year percentage growth, Florida had three of the top 10  counties: Walton, where Fort Walton Beach is situated, grew by 4.5 percent. Osceola, just south of Orlando, grew by 4.3 percent. And St. Johns County, which includes the historic city of St. Augustine, grew by 4.2 percent.

Bobby Livera, a real estate agent in Orlando, said a lot of the new people in the area are choosing rental properties. That has led to a shortage of rentals, especially affordable units.

"I get a lot of people relocating to Orlando, probably more than most," Livera said. "Orlando is growing, but income isn't really."

Among counties with a population of 20,000 or more, Williams County, N.D., was the fastest-growing one by percentage, increasing by 5.9 percent between 2017 and 2018 (to 35,350 from 33,395).

The rapid growth there was due mainly to net domestic migration (1,471) in 2018. The county also grew between 2017 and 2018 by natural increase (427) and international migration (52).


Continuing recent trends due to economic woes and Hurricane Maria's impact, all 78 municipios (similar to counties) in Puerto Rico decreased in population in 2018. Between 2010 and 2018, all but one municipio lost population -- Gurabo Municipio on the eastern end of the island increased to 46,068 in 2018 from 45,371 in 2010, a gain of 697 residents (1.5 percent).

The largest numeric population decreases between 2017 and 2018 were in San Juan Municipio at minus 15,123 (4.5 percent), followed by Bayamón Municipio (minus 8,013; 4.5 percent) and Ponce Municipio (minus 6,705 or 4.8 percent).

The five fastest-decreasing metro areas (excluding those within Puerto Rico) were Charleston, W.Va. (minus 1.6 percent); Pine Bluff, Ark. (minus 1.5 percent); Farmington, N.M. (minus 1.5 percent); Danville, Ill. (minus 1.2 percent); and Watertown-Fort Drum, N.Y. (minus 1.2 percent). The population decreases were due to negative net domestic migration.

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