Suburbs and the Census: Patterns of Growth and Decline

The typical image of suburban places is changing. According to latest U.S. Census data, many suburban jurisdictions have experienced steady – and sometimes explosive – population growth in the past decade. However, this growth is clearly uneven with a large number of suburbs losing population. Frequently this population loss is taking place in inner suburbs located mostly in metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast. This paper examines suburban population growth and decline in nearly 2,600 suburban places in 35 metropolitan areas during the 1990s. It illustrates that while it is common to talk about “the suburbs” as a group of homogeneous jurisdictions, careful analysis reveals that suburbs are highly diverse.