To hear some urbanists talk, you’d think the outer suburbs have been abandoned wholesale, lawn-mowers still running with no one to drive them, picket fences left open in the owners’ haste to beat it to the city.
A new Brookings report puts the re-urbanization of America in perspective. During the economic crisis, from 2007 to 2010, job sprawl receded ever so slightly. And not everywhere. Actually, in more than half of the 100 biggest metro areas, job sprawl actually increased — it just increased less than it decreased in the other ones.
All in all, the economy shed jobs virtually everywhere between 2007 and 2010. So the rush to create new jobs in the outer reaches of suburbia halted, because there were no new jobs, period. As it happened, though, urban cores lost a slightly smaller share of their jobs than outer-ring areas.
Report author Elizabeth Kneebone has been tracking job sprawl trends for years, and she says that although there are still more jobs outside cities than in them, the recession has had a notable impact.
“After dropping two percentage points from 2000 to 2007, the share of metropolitan jobs within three miles of downtown stabilized from 2007 to 2010,” she wrote. “However, by 2010 nearly twice the share of jobs was located at least 10 miles away from downtown (43 percent) as within three miles of downtown (23 percent).”