Non-Hispanic whites and blacks made a difference in only a handful of big cities that grew. The District was one of the few cities among the top 100 to experience a population increase as a result of growth among whites.
The demographic changes sweeping the nation are transforming many cities, making them even more multiethnic, even as many blacks and whites are spurning cities for the suburbs. Six of the 10 largest cities are majority minority.
Much of the growth can be attributed to recent immigrants, part of a pattern that has determined city size throughout much of American history. Many came in search of job opportunities, making population growth a marker of a city’s economy and vitality.
Most of the 100 biggest cities grew between 2000 and 2010. The top gainers were in the West and South, including San Antonio, Fort Worth and El Paso in Texas, and Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina.
The 21 cities that lost people included Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Milwaukee. Detroit had the biggest drop, shedding 25 percent of its population. Other industrial cities that had declines included St. Louis and Baltimore, which fell 5 percent.
In many cases, what determined whether a city grew or contracted was the number of Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, Asians it attracted. Among the 100 biggest cities, 26 would have had population losses without an influx of Hispanics, and 11 would have shrunk without Asians.
Cities that do not attract more new immigrant communities over the next decade will hemorrhage population, demographers predicted.
“The real energy in cities is going to be from Hispanics coming in,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “Cities in the industrial Midwest could use an infusion of new immigrant minorities coming in. Cleveland and Detroit haven’t done well; they’re not attracting enough Hispanics. Clearly, Hispanics were the magic bullet for a lot of cities.”
Washington as an outlier
Partly because of the recession, the 2010 population numbers were a disappointment in some big cities.
Officials in Atlanta had predicted a population of 480,000 to more than 500,000. Instead, only 420,000 people were counted in the census, an uptick of barely 1,600 people. New York City grew by 167,000, just 2 percent and less than a quarter of its total growth in the previous decade. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that New Yorkers were undercounted and that he will contest the census count.
The District grew by almost 30,000 but had anticipated a spike of about 3,400, Planning Director Harriet Tregoning said. But because the difference is less than 1 percent of the city’s 601,700 residents, the count will not be appealed, she said.