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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

2010 Census: A Brief Analysis

After a disappointing 2000 Census that saw a population decline in Huntsville, the city increased by nearly 22,000 residents in the 2000s for a total population of 180,105. Madison continued its impressive population increase to hit 42,938 in 2010, from 29,329 in 2000.

The number that has gotten the most attention, however, has been 417,593-- the "metro area" population, which is the sum of Madison and Limestone County's populations. While the Times has run several stories proclaiming that Huntsville is now the second-largest metro area in the state, it is a bit premature to determine that. The new Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) definitions won't come out until the Summer of 2013, and only then can we officially determine whether or not we surpassed Mobile to become #2. That is doubtful however, considering that Mobile will probably (re?)gain Baldwin in the new MSA; even if Huntsville gained Morgan and Lawrence counties in the new MSA (population: 571,422), it still wouldn't be enough to surpass a theoretical Mobile-Baldwin MSA (population: 595,297).

The population junkies out there may enjoy this map compiled by The New York Times of Census 2010 data that has been released in the past month or so, visually showing growing and shrinking Census tracts and their demographics.

Source: The New York Times
I'll state the obvious first: Monrovia, East Limestone and Hampton Cove were the fastest-growing areas in the region between 2000 and 2010. But here's some interesting facts you may not have known, before you looked at the map of course:
  • Five Points had the largest population decline of any city neighborhood in the past decade. Downtown also had a decline in population, mainly due to the loss of public housing. Lowe Mill, on the other hand, remained stagnant, nearly reversing years of population decline. Blossomwood, Oak Park, and even Terry Heights had slight population increases. 
  • Hispanics fuel growth on the Southwest side. Hispanics now make up 6% of Huntsville's total population. Much of this growth is in Southwest Huntsville, where one tract recorded a ten-fold increase in the Hispanic population. 
  • Southeast stagnates. Neighborhoods surrounding Bailey Cove recorded slight population declines in the past decade, while new home construction fueled growth in neighborhoods along the Parkway. My theory for the decline in older SE areas-- Southeast is aging, with more "empty nesters" (parents whose kids have moved off to college and beyond). You can see this phenomenon in other areas, such as East Madison, Southeast Decatur, and neighborhoods along Governors Drive. It is part of the natural cycle of a stable neighborhood-- once younger families begin to move in again (as can be seen in Piedmont and Jones Valley), the population grows. 
What to watch for in the next ten years: 
  • Alabama's newest largest city. Birmingham, Huntsville, and Montgomery will all be around the same size in 2020 (approximately 200,000 each).  
  • Significant increases in urban neighborhoods. As "Millenials" (e.g. yours truly) come of age, urban living options will be more in demand. Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods will become hot residential markets, especially if the removal of the housing projects continues, and gas prices continue to rise. 
  • Suburban growth continues. It will be different, though-- walkable, mixed-use (Providence-style) suburban neighborhoods will become the norm, thus becoming more affordable. So-called cookie cutter subdivisions will become unpopular and appeal only to the lowest bracket of home buyers. 


Anonymous said...

It's fascinating how things evolve over time. I look around our cookie cutter suburban life and wonder how well it will hold up for the long haul and what I will do with a 4 bedroom house on almost an acre when I am old!!!

Very interesting blog post - thanks for sharing.

Ben said...

walkable, mixed-use (Providence-style) suburban neighborhoods will become the norm, thus becoming more affordable. So-called cookie cutter subdivisions will become unpopular and appeal only to the lowest bracket of home buyers.

While I think the "cookie cutter" subdivisions will change, I do not believe Providence-style developments will become the norm. Most people just do not want to live on postage-stamp sized lots, and most people don't care about "green" developments. What they want is some space, some grass, and some privacy. Walkability will become increasingly important to people, but it will not cause the death of the traditional subdivision.

Anonymous said...

I would say your theory on SE Huntsville around Bailey Cove is right, in my case. My family moved to that area in 1989, I went to high school at Grissom in the 90's, and have grown up and moved away. Now, only my mom is left there in our old house.

Anonymous said...

The NY Times map is about the coolest tool I have seen in years....All across the country, down to the census tract level, with population demo, and changes over time. I'd love to see how income over lays with the race and ethnicity change data.