According to U.S. Census data out today, city living is, increasingly, the life we lead. While Chicago posted only a modest gain - not enough to reverse years of decline, Art Golab reports - most major American cities saw robust population gains for the second straight year.
Big cities surpassed the rate of growth of their surrounding suburbs at an even faster clip, a sign of America's continuing preference for urban living after the economic downturn quelled enthusiasm for less-crowded expanses.
Farther-out suburbs known as exurbs saw their growth slip to 0.35 percent, the lowest in more than a decade.
You can explore the different rates of population movement in Illinois and Indiana in this searchable database:
Prior to 2011, suburbs had consistently outpaced big cities since 1920, with the rise of the automobile.
Cities with booming regional economies continue to see the biggest gains -- from Seattle and San Francisco to Austin, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C., locales seeing a burst of new apartment construction.
Census data show that many closer-in suburbs linked to a city with public transit or well-developed roadways are benefiting from strong city growth, while far-flung areas near the metropolitan edge are fizzling after heady growth during the mid-decade housing boom.
Suburbs in the South and West also are seeing some gains, such as those around Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Fla.
New Orleans, which saw its population shrivel in the mid-2000s after Hurricane Katrina, continued to post the biggest increase in city growth relative to suburbs in the past year -- 2.5 percent vs. 0.6 percent. Atlanta, Richmond, Va., Denver, Boston and Charlotte, N.C., also showed wide disparities between city and suburbs.
Other big cities showing faster growth compared with the previous year include Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio.
In all, primary cities in large metropolitan areas with populations of more than 1 million grew by 1.12 percent last year, compared with 0.97 percent in surrounding suburbs. In 2011, the gap between city and suburb growth was narrower -- 1.03 percent vs. 0.96 percent.
During the mid-decade housing boom, city growth had come to a standstill, while exurban growth rose by 2 percent, as the wide availability of low-interest mortgages pushed new residential development outward.
- New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Boston each grew faster between 2010 and 2012 than they did annually between 2000 and 2010.
- Texas continued to be the big population winner, accounting for eight of the 15 fastest-growing cities with populations of 50,000 or more from 2011-2012.
- New York remained the nation's most populous city, at 8.3 million, with the rest of the top 10 unchanged. Austin, Texas, moved up from 13th to 11th, supplanting Jacksonville, Fla.; Indianapolis slipped from 12th to 13th.
Associated Press reporting