Earlier this week, CNN Money published a list of the 10 cities in the United States that achieved the greatest population growth from 2000 to 2010.
I’ll save you the trouble of clicking through all 10 web pages to see all the top-growing cities by telescoping it to a single quarter page:
- Charlotte, NC
- Raleigh, NC
- Cape Coral, FL
- Provo, UT
- Austin, TX
- Las Vegas, NV
- McAllen, TX
- Knoxville, TN
- Greenville, SC
- San Antonio, TX
The first thing we note is that all of these cities are in the South and Southwest, where much of U.S. population growth has been over the past two decades. That besides population growth, being in these states means that these cities have:
- Lower wages for most people than in the North, Midwest and Far West
- Anti-union laws for decades (except Nevada)
- Less extensive social nets for the poor, young, ill and elderly.
Politically these cities are all located in red states, although North Carolina and Nevada are in the process of moving towards the Democrats. Eight of the 10 cities were part of the United States in 1861, and all 8 of these joined the oppressive slave-owning Confederate States of America.
Before giving right-wingers the chance to say that this growth demonstrates that the conservative mix of free market economics and authoritarian social values works, let me point out a few things:
- These states all receive more in federal funds and benefits than they pay in all federal taxes. From the time of the Roman Republic through the medieval French fairs and until today, places thrive when governments give them money.
- The low-wage jobs that attracted people to most of these places took away other jobs which paid higher wages in other parts of the country which have better social service networks and more public services places. (Note that government and universities played the major role in Austin and Raleigh, while Las Vegas is in sui generis, its own thing).
- These cities are all new and in parts of the country that resisted urbanization longer than the Northeast and Midwest. Newer cities grow faster than mature cities. By definition, regions undergoing urbanization send more people to the cities than regions that have already been urbanized.
I like Raleigh a little, and I’m told that I would enjoy Austin as I do Eugene, Madison, Ithaca and other university towns. But on the whole, this list symbolizes what’s wrong with America today. As a group, these cities are centered on malls that look like each other filled with stores that look each other. These cities are built for cars and not for pedestrians or mass transit. The cities all look more like suburbs than traditional pedestrian-filled, urban mixed use spaces. The states containing these cities have higher rates of poverty and infant mortality and lower rates of people with health insurance. The wages are too low for many workers and less money is spent on providing social services, public education and public spaces than in other states.
And then there’s Las Vegas.
Growth is not always good. Cancer is also a growth.
Since World War II a slow-growing cancer has been poisoning the United States: the car-and mall-centric suburban consumer lifestyle; this wasteful lifestyle in which every celebration, emotional response or other manifestation of a mental state consists of buying something, usually by first getting in your car and driving somewhere. For the same standard of living, we use many times more energy and other natural resources than Western Europeans and the Japanese. These top 10 growth cities all symbolize the reason why the United States is the major contributor to global warming and resource shortages.
These cities represent the growth of sprawl. I would feel much better about the future of the country and the world if at least a few of America’s fastest growing cities were of the traditional type, with great mass transit, beautiful urban parks, lots of interesting local stores, major museums and other arts institutions, many walkers during all times of day and lots of public spaces.