Monday, March 26, 2012


This used to be a rural country. In the 19th century, most people lived in the country, but as industry spread the balance shifted, and by 1920, 51 percent of us lived in cities.

90 Years later, the US population is overwhelmingly urban according to new figures just released by the US Census Bureau. 71 Percent of us now live in metropolitan areas (clusters of cities which have grown together) or medium-sized cities of 50,000 or more, with only 19 and a half percent living in rural places.

But that only adds up to 90 and a half percent. Where's everybody else?

It turns out the Bureau has unveiled a new category of location where 9.5 percent of Americans live, the "urban cluster," a town or unincorporated area of between 2500 and 50,000.

There is a tremendous variety of types of these clusters and their relationship with the surrounding countrysides. Some are actually "exurbs," others are county-seat, country-market, courthouse-and-post-office type places. A depressingly large number are dying small towns.

There are considerably more of these urban clusters than big cities -- 3,087 as opposed to 486 "urban areas" or regions such as New York-Newark, Los Angeles-Anaheim-Long Beach, or the Bay Area, to name a few of the largest.

Here's a little secret: the best living in the US today is in some of these "urban clusters," especially those which have a thriving symbiotic relationship with the surrounding rural areas. The future of the country might be in just such places, and I expect them to wax over the next 20 years or so, as the cities become even less attractive than they are already and wane toward their 1920 population levels.

No comments: