Miami in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000

November 1, 2003

Executive Summary

Miami is unique among American cities, and Census 2000 highlights that distinctiveness.

Miami maintains one of the largest Hispanic populations of any city in the U.S., owing not only to significant Cuban immigration in the 1960s, but also to more recent arrivals of Caribbean and Central American populations. The city, like Florida in general, also houses a much larger elderly population than most. Yet in some respects, the city is quite young: Twenty-five to 34-year-olds are among Miami’s largest age groups.

Miami and its residents also face unique economic challenges, as this databook reveals. Compared to other cities, Miami’s adults possess low education levels, are often absent from the labor force, and must provide for relatively large households. City residents further confront a rapidly decentralizing regional economy, in which the gap between inner-city workers and jobs is widening. As the economic strength of the urban core dissipates, too many Miami families make do with low incomes, and struggle to pay for housing and the necessities of life.

Along these lines and others, then, Miami in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000 concludes that:

  • Population in Miami-Dade County is decentralizing rapidly. The population of the city of Miami grew modestly over the past two decades, but its metro area ballooned in size. Today, only one in six residents of Miami-Dade County lives in the central city. Miami’s downtown, which grew very rapidly in the 1990s, is itself surrounded by neighborhoods where population declined.

  • Miami’s suburbs are growing even more diverse as population shifts outwards. The City of Miami is home to the largest Hispanic population share among the 23 Living Cities—two-thirds of residents were of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity in 2000. Yet suburban Miami’s Hispanic population grew more than 20 times faster than the city’s. Meanwhile, the city’s black population declined, but rose significantly in the suburbs. This reflects that many new immigrants to the Miami area are settling in the suburbs upon arrival in the U.S. For every one foreign-born individual added to the City of Miami’s population in the 1990s, suburban Miami-Dade County added 150.

  • Fewer Miamians work in the city. To be precise, only half of the City of Miami’s working residents are employed within the city—lower than the share in all but two of the 23 Living Cities. Today, moreover, a majority of commutes in the Miami metro area begin and end in the suburbs, and city residents are driving to work in greater numbers. Miami’s black residents, in particular, may be especially disconnected from the growing suburban job market, as more than 40 percent do not have access to an automobile.

  • Miami residents participate only weakly in the labor market. Only half of working-age adults in Miami were employed or looking for work in 2000—the lowest percentage among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. As a result, more than one in four Miami children lives in a family with no workers. These low levels of work may reflect not only a growing distance between inner-city Miami residents and suburban job opportunities, but also the low education levels of Miami’s population. Though this improved in the 1990s, the share of Miami’s adults with at least a four-year college degree remains just 16 percent. Only about half of Miamians hold a high-school degree or more—the lowest such share among the 23 Living Cities.

  • Household incomes in Miami rose slightly in the 1990s, but remain among the lowest in the nation—and the middle class shrank. Low- and high-income households increased in number in Miami during the 1990s, but the number of middle-income households declined slightly in the 1990s. As a result, the city’s median household income rose only slightly over the decade, and ranked last among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. in 2000. In several neighborhoods, more than 40 percent of all residents live in poverty. Half of Miami’s families with children have incomes below or near the poverty line.

  • Miami’s renters face great difficulties in paying for housing. Miami’s low income levels make housing relatively less affordable for families there. To be sure, rents in the city grew only modestly in the 1990s. But nearly 50 percent of renter households pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing—the highest share among the 23 Living Cities. Moderate-income families fare somewhat better, with a smaller share facing rental cost burdens than the national average. Yet the opportunity for those families to move into homeownership is constrained by the city’s housing stock, which is heavily tilted towards multifamily buildings.

By presenting the indicators on the following pages, Miami in Focus: A Profile from Census 2000 seeks to give readers a better sense of where the city of Miami and its residents stand in relation to their peers, and how the 1990s shaped the city, its neighborhoods, and the region. Living Cities and the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy hope that this information will prompt a fruitful dialogue among city and community leaders about the direction Miami should take in the coming decade.

Miami Data Book Series 1

Miami Data Book Series 2