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City trends and the resilience of communities.

This is the fifth in a series of articles revolving around the topics that will be presented at the 17th Annual Leadership Summit, which will be held September 10-12 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky. The program, titled "The Strength and Spirit of Leadership in Local Government," includes underlying themes of change, collaboration, courage and the personal challenges of serving as a leader in local government.

Every locality and state in the U.S. and countries around the world are undergoing major demographic and economic revolutions.

City leaders will have to rethink population trends, housing needs, transportation demands and diversity as we move within the 21st century. How will an aging population and shifting diversity impact cities? What are the housing needs of a more diverse and older population and how will our cities meet these changing needs? These are important questions that city leaders will have to understand and address.

World Trends

In 2007, the world population moved from a rural to an urban majority with more people living in urban areas than rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau population projections for the world population show it growing from 6.1 billion in 2000 to 9.4 billion by 2050, a 50 percent increase in world population. Ultimately, this will put added pressure on resources.

However, contrary to popular belief, the world's population growth will not be due to fertility, but due to longevity as people live longer. It is projected that between 2000 and 2050, only 10 percent of world population growth will be people under age 25 and 65 percent of the growth will be people who are over age 45, meaning they will have already been born by 2009.

U.S. and Other Developed Countries' Trends

Similar but more dramatic trends are taking place in other developed countries. Most developed countries are experiencing population decline with fertility levels below replacement level.

On the other hand, Australia, Canada and the United States are the exceptions because they are "settler" nations with higher immigration levels. Immigration, and higher fertility rates among immigrants, account for the population growth in the United States.

The impact of the immigrant population in the United States differs from region to region. Between 2000 and 2008, the Northeast and the Midwest experienced significant population declines with domestic out-migration, while the West and South experienced population gains from domestic in-migration.

Majority Minority

The Census Bureau recently released population estimates indicating that the child population is approaching the point where no one population will be a majority in the United States, therefore we will see a majority minority population of children.

At the same time, the vast majority (80 percent) of the United States population that is age 70 or older are Non-Hispanic white. How will a growing young minority population and an aging Non-Hispanic white population interact? Will an aging Non-Hispanic white population look after their short term interest of health and retirement, but neglect the well being of a younger more minority population?

The well being of the United States will be determined by its investment in child well being, education, income and employment opportunities, and housing and transportation options of its growing minority population. All growth under age 45 in the United States is minority and 80 percent of all population growth is minority, while the Non-Hispanic white population only grows as it grows older. There are dramatic education, income and housing disparities by race and Hispanic origin.


Urban vs. Rural Realities

The worldwide trend mentioned earlier of a shift from rural to urban centers can be seen in our cities right now.

Across the United States, rural counties are losing population and urban counties are gaining population. How do states deal with declining rural populations and growing urban populations?

The majority of households, 60 percent, in the United States contain one or two persons. Twenty-five percent of households contain a single person, and less than one in three households contain children.

Why are we building very large houses with four or five bedrooms, mainly on the second floor with the washer and dryer in the basement? Don't we need moderately sized homes with a full bedroom along with a washer and dryer on the fast floor? Shouldn't these homes be located in an urbanized, high density setting with public transportation to work, the grocery store and the doctor's office? What will happen to 5 acre lots, 20 miles from town as the United State population ages, gets tired of mowing acres of land, and has to stop driving?

Census population projections predict that the majority of population growth between 2010 and 2020 in the United States will be ages 65 and older.

The Future and the Role of Government

How do we ensure that local governments understand the direction of future trends and new realities, effectively planning how to adjust and invest in a viable future that serves all citizens? Building a better understanding of the complex 21 century trends for cities may be a good start.

Details: The annual Leadership Summit is NLC's premiere leadership development program for local officials. Designed as a leadership retreat, the summit provides personal leadership development that is focused on community perspectives. For more information, contact the Leadership Training Institute at (202) 626-3170 or visit the NLC website at

Ron Crouch served as the director of the Kentucky State Data Center located at the University of Louisville, which is the official clearinghouse for Census data providing information on population, housing, education, employment and other social indicators. Crouch has developed a national and international approach to data analyzing trends by Census regions, states and countries.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Crouch, Ron
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Conference notes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 20, 2009
Previous Article:Savannah, Ga., transitions to curbside recycling.
Next Article:34 cities selected as finalists for the 2009 Awards for Municipal Excellence.

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