State of the Cities

Throughout the 20th Century urban regions have competed with one another, responding to continually shifting economic conditions.  Some have been winners, and some losers.   We've seen the rise of the Sunbelt, the explosion of California, the resurgence of the Midwest - but the trend was never entirely stable or predictable.  Besides differences in the economic health of metropolitan regions, the last century also witnessed the emergence of sharp divisions within some regions, with a long-term decline of central cities relative to their suburban rings.  Continuing suburbanization expanded and transformed urban regions, often at the expense of central cities. This website offers analyses on how urban regions are doing as we enter the 21st century.

In May 2002, the Census Bureau began releasing data one state at a time on a wide range of economic indicators, from income levels to unemployment to educational achievement of the population.  Based on these data, the following web pages show the current trends in the state of the city for entire metro regions, and for their city and suburban zones.

To facilitate comparisons between and within metro regions we provide an overall ranking of each region in 1990 and 2000 from best to worst, and for central cities and suburbs separately.  

We give special attention to the disparity between cities and suburbs in each region.  Over the last century many regions witnessed a deterioration of central cities as people and jobs moved outward to the surrounding suburbs.  Because a strong central city is vital to a prosperous metropolis, our city-suburb disparity rankings give the highest rank to regions where the gap between these parts of the region is smallest.

We also provide values for individual indicators, including median and per capita income; rates of poverty and unemployment; education and occupational status, as well as homeownership and housing vacancy. A description of the indicators used and how the rankings were calculated can be found in our Technical Notes section.  

To find out the rankings and socioeconomic characteristics of a metro region, use the menu below.

What's released: Data from the Census 2000 SF3 demographic profiles are now available for all of the Nation's 331 metro areas. Click here to view the Mumford Center's new report on metropolitan economic trends nationwide.

Report Highlights:

  • Trends vary dramatically around the country. The nation's two global cities, New York and Los Angeles, lag behind while the big improvements are in the Midwest and South.

  • Two Californias have emerged: a northern section that has experienced strong economic growth, and a southern and central section in decline.

  • Income gap persists: findings reveal large increases in per capita income, reflecting prosperity among the most affluent residents, but more modest gains for middle class and little change for poor residents.