Central-City and Suburban Migration Patterns: Is a Turnaround on the Horizon?


John D. Kasarda
Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3440
Stephen J. Appold
H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and Management (then)
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA  15213-3890
Stuart H. Sweeney
Planning Department (then)
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3440
Elaine Sieff
Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise (then)
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3440

The huge population losses that characterized many older, larger U.S. cities during the 1960s and 1970s slowed and in some cases ceased during the 1980s and early 1990s. Periodic media reports of neighborhood turnarounds, commercial revitalization, and improvements in housing and the quality of life in selected inner-city subareas have been taken as signs that central cities are retaining middle-class residents and even attracting some back from the suburbs.

Analysis of metropolitan household migration patterns based on the U.S. Census Bureau's 1980 and 1990 Public Use Microdata Samples and more recent Current Population Surveys shows that the dominant trend in residential movement among most population subgroups is still toward the suburbs. While not discounting reports of central-city neighborhood turnarounds and selective demographic revitalization, our findings imply that those improvements are limited and that a widespread back-to-the-city movement is not likely in the foreseeable future.
 

Housing Policy Debate 8:307-358 (1997)
 

Return to index
Return to Stephen Appold