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Archive of posts filed under the Demographics category.

Another way to see the US: Map of where nobody lives

There are more than 300 million people living in the United States today, but America is such a huge country that we still have staggeringly vast areas that are completely devoid of humans. This map illustrates those places. Everything colored green is a census block with zero population.


Map by Nik Freeman of mapsbynik.com.

The eastern US is pretty well populated except for a few spots in mountains and swamps. There’s plenty of rural land, plenty of forests, but you’re never far from a farm, if not a town.

The west is a completely a different story. It’s covered with enormous stretches of land that are simply empty of people. There are towns along major roads, rivers, and rail lines, but vast emptiness between.

And Alaska’s emptiness makes even the western contiguous states look densely populated. Those green areas near the Arctic Circle look bigger than entire states.


Map by Nik Freeman of mapsbynik.com.


Denver Census Update 2014

In the years following a decennial census, the US Census Bureau releases in March its county population estimates for July 1 of the preceding year. This is known as their annual postcensal estimates. A few days ago, the bureau’s July 1, 2013 population estimates were released. In this post, we will take a look at Denver’s and other Colorado counties’ population estimates. You can read last year’s post on this topic by clicking here.

For the fifth time in the past six years, Denver County has led the state in numeric population growth according to the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s recently released 2013 population estimates show that Denver County (the City and County of Denver) had a population of 649,495 on July 1, 2013, an increase of 14,953 over their July 2012 estimate of 634,542. Denver’s 2010 Census population count was 600,158.

Here are two tables I’ve prepared showing the “Vintage 2013” postcensal estimates for the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2012 and 2013 (click to embiggen):

2014-04-05_2012-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Numeric-Population-Change

2014-04-05_2012-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Percent-Population-Change

Next, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2010 Census and the new July 2013 estimates:

2014-04-05_2010-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Numeric-Population-Change

2014-04-05_2010-2013-Top-10-Colorado-Counties-by-Percent-Population-Change

The Census Bureau’s July 2013 population estimate for Colorado was 5,268,367, an increase of 78,909 from the July 2012 estimate, and an increase of 239,171 from the state’s 2010 Census count of 5,029,196.


Gentrification in Denver

The concept of gentrification is relatively new in the urban planning lexicon only appearing in print in 1964 and generally defined as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” Whether or not a racial component of displacement is integral to this definition is still up for debate. With Spike Lee’s recent rant on this very subject as Brooklyn continues to gentrify, I decided to look at some Denver examples of gentrification to see how we compare.

The Whittier neighborhood, located north of 23rd Avenue and east of Downing (east of Five Points), has been closely associated with Denver’s black community since at least 1930. This was solidified by the 1950s as the so-called “color line” located near High Street in Whittier was broken as new housing opportunities were sought due to explosive growth in Denver’s black population following World War II. The white majorities along Race, Vine and Gaylord streets quickly vanished. A neighborhood that had once been nearly 100% white in 1890 had become 75% black by 1990. The process of this mid-century demographic shift has nearly been lost to history as the general perception has been that Five Points and Whittier have always been the heart of black culture in Denver. Whittier School did in fact become Denver’s first majority black school by the early 1930s as the population was increasingly segregated in this part of Denver especially following the Ku KIux Klan’s political grip on Denver and Colorado during the 1920s. But prior to this time, Denver’s black population was never large enough to dominate a majority of slots in any Denver school.

The Civil Rights Movement and fair housing laws eventually created more opportunities for housing choice, especially after 1970, and evidence of this is very apparent in Whittier. Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 43% drop in the black population of Whittier and an 89% increase in the white population (Whittier is coterminous with census tract 23). The neighborhood’s demographic breakdown now consists of a 29% black/42% white percentage, also indicating that there is a sizable Hispanic population in the area that was not in place in 1990 or 2000. Meanwhile, the black population has spread out into other areas of east Denver and into Aurora, no longer being forced into a few census tracts.

Whittier is not alone in this demographic shift that also coincides with a great influx of new residential construction (scrapes), home remodels and other major home improvements in most old Denver neighborhoods featuring historic homes with brick construction. We can quickly compare Whittier to Highland. I am referring only to the census tract located around 29th and Zuni, that includes “LoHi,” the area near Little Man Ice Cream. In 1990, this census tract (4.02) contained 5,986 people and was 65% Hispanic. Today (2010 census), the population stands at 5,314 people and is 35% Hispanic. Since 2000, the white population of the census tract has increased 32% and the Hispanic population has decreased 57%.

So ultimately I wonder if gentrification is only perceived as “bad” if it displaces minority residents. I know that for black homeowners in Whittier, many have suddenly lived the American Dream by selling their $39,000 home in 1989 dollars for $339,000 in 2014 dollars. While the faces in the neighborhood have changed, Whittier continues to be one of Denver’s most diverse areas. The influx of energy and money ensures that Denver’s central neighborhoods remain viable places to live over the long-term and are a welcome alternative when considering the urban decay and blight that a place such as Detroit is currently suffering. When you take any racial changes out of the equation however, gentrification’s foes are more quiet if we look at anecdotal evidence. One only needs to read the Denver Post over the past month about the booming Highlands neighborhood (west of Federal) pricing out even more people in the real estate market who are now looking at places such as Edgewater and Wheat Ridge where one can buy the same housing types as found in the 32nd and Lowell or 44th and Tennyson area for $100,000+ cheaper. These areas are being “rediscovered” and, although they have been historically “white” in character, they are no less deserving of the new investment.

Ultimately, cities are changing and dynamic places, if they are lucky. Otherwise, they can stagnate and decline. While it is painful sometimes to see places you grew up knowing in one capacity, there is a whole new generation of folks moving to Denver from across the country who have no preconceived notions of what an area is or is not supposed to be. So whether it’s Harvey Park in southwest Denver that has greatly increased its share of the Hispanic population (while it was nearly 100% white in 1960) or Whittier and Highland who have greatly increased their share of white population, the Denver area continues to grow and change—just as it has always done since 1858.


What are America’s densest neighborhoods?

Last week’s post about Colorado’s densest neighborhoods showed where density is clustered in Denver and other Front Range cities. Now let’s look at the densest spots in the core areas of other large cities around the US.

This post shows the census tract density of the central county (only) in each of America’s 20 largest Urban areas, in both 2000 and 2010. The list is in order of size, so New York is first, LA second, and Denver 18th.

Note that the scale on these maps is different than on the Colorado ones from last week, since the scale of density in cities nationwide is more broad than just within Colorado. All the maps in this thread do show the same scale compared to each other.

1. New York:
America’s biggest city breaks the scale. While others on this list might have a few neighborhoods in the top density category, which on these maps is 40,000 ppsm and higher, New York is covered end to end. It’s one of only 4 cities with any tracts above 100,000 ppsm. Its peak is 200,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
2. Los Angeles:
Despite its reputation for sprawl, LA compares favorably to the densest cities after New York. Its peak density of 94,000 ppsm is 4 times denser than Denver’s peak of 23,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
3. Chicago:
Home to probably the single-densest census tract in America, a 508,000 ppsm anomaly that’s just a single high rise, and is so small it’s not visible at normal scale. Besides that tract, Chicago tops around at about the same level as LA.
2000
2010
 
4. Miami:
Thanks to more narrowly-drawn census tracts along its high-rise coast, Miami’s peak density shot up from 38,000 ppsm in 2000 to 77,000 ppsm in 2010, but the actual change wasn’t as significant on the ground.
2000
2010
 
5. Philadelphia:
Philadelphia’s peak rose from 54,000 ppsm in 2000 to 64,000 in 2010.
2000
2010
 
6. Dallas:
Despite a lot of regional growth, Dallas’ density dropped significantly. It has fewer dense tracts in 2010 than in 2000, and its peak is down to 44,000 ppsm from 57,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
7. Houston:
Unlike Dallas, Houston appears to be densifying. Oddly, its densest area, with 55,000 ppsm, is not the core.
2000
2010
 
8. Washington (with Arlington & Alexandria):
Washington’s peak density increased from 57,000 ppsm to 66,000 ppsm. Note that this map includes 2 jurisdictions in addition to the central county, unlike all others on this list.
2000
2010
 
9. Atlanta:
Not only is Atlanta shockingly sparse, its densest tract fell from 41,000 ppsm in 2000 to just 21,000 ppsm in 2010. The explanation? A downtown public housing complex was demolished, erasing the population of the densest 2000 tract.
2000
2010
 
10. Boston:
One of only 4 cities with a tract above 100,000, Boston has a single tract that reaches 110,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
11. Detroit:
Detroit’s peak density of 18,000 ppsm is about the same as in 2000, but the number of mid-density tracts above 10,000 ppsm declined significantly as the city continued to empty.
2000
2010
 
12. Phoenix:
Phoenix tops out at 23,000 ppsm, the same as central Denver. But unlike Denver, Phoenix is strongly de-centralized. It has no visible downtown core, and its 23,000 ppsm tract is in the suburbs.
2000
2010
 
13. San Francisco:
San Francisco has more tracts above 100,000 ppsm than any city except New York. It tops out at 161,000 ppsm.
2000
2010
 
14. Seattle:
With a peak of 51,000 ppsm and a small but significant core, Seattle is smaller than the other big coastal cities on this list, but still strongly centralized and quite dense.
2000
2010
 
15. San Diego:
While downtown San Diego densified compared to 2000, and its 50,000 ppsm peak is higher, some of its other denser neighborhoods are sparser in 2010. The densest area is Mission Valley instead of the core.
2000
2010
 
16. Minneapolis:
Of all the cities on this list, Minneapolis looks the most similar to Denver. Its distinct core of moderate density neighborhoods topped out at 25,000 ppsm in both 2000 and 2010.
2000
2010
 
17. Tampa:
By far the sparsest city on this list, Tampa’s peak of 13,000 ppsm means it has no tracts in the 3rd or 4th categories, and precious few crack even into the 2nd. Boulder and Aurora are denser, Lakewood is about the same.
2000
2010
 
18. Denver:
Denver is like a hybrid of sparse sunbelt cities and dense coastal ones. Like coastal cities, Denver has a noticeable core of dense neighborhoods near downtown. But like the sunbelt ones, Denver’s densest spot is in a suburban area, a 31,000 ppsm tract in Glendale. Denver’s urban peak of 23,000 ppsm is slightly lower than it was in 2000, when Capitol Hill was 26,000 ppsm. The drop is most likely due to demographic changes, as more singles but fewer families live in the same places. Densities increased in downtown and LoDo, but not yet enough to be visible at this scale.
2000
2010
 
19. Baltimore:
Baltimore’s lone tract in the densest category is an impressive 86,000 ppsm, but that tract is down from a whopping 176,000 ppsm in 2000. Why such variation, and why 1 tract so much denser than all the others? That one extreme tract is a prison.
2000
2010
 
20. Saint Louis:
Saint Louis’ losses have been less drastic than Detroit’s, but they still hurt. Its peak is down to a Tampa-like 13,000 ppsm, from 15,000 ppsm in 2000.
2000
2010

Want to see more? You can make maps like these for any county in the United States, using census.gov. Here are instructions.


Denver County Remains Population Growth Leader in Colorado

For the fourth time in the past five years, Denver County has led the state in population growth according to the US Census Bureau. The Census Bureau’s recently released 2012 population estimates show that Denver County (the City and County of Denver) had a population of 634,265 on July 1, 2012, an increase of 14,980 over their July 2011 estimate of 619,285. Denver’s 2010 Census population count was 600,158.

Every year following a decennial census, the US Census Bureau releases its county population estimates for July 1 of the preceding year, known as their annual postcensal estimates. This process continues annually until the next decennial census occurs, after which the Census Bureau then prepares what they call their intercensal estimates for the just-completed decade. This involves recalculating all of the annual postcensal estimates for that decade so that those estimates fit between the two decennial census counts in a relatively smooth and logically distributed manner. Here are two tables I’ve prepared showing the “Vintage 2012” postcensal estimates for the Top 10 Colorado counties in both numeric and percentage population gain between the 2011 and 2012 (click to embiggen):

Denver led the state in both numeric and percent gain for 2011-2012. The fact that Denver led the state in numeric population gain this past year isn’t particularly surprising statistically, considering the size of Denver’s population relative to other Colorado counties, but it is rather impressive that Denver led the state in percent population gain from 2011-2012, given the high population baseline from which Denver starts. But Denver’s population growth is particularly notable historically, considering the extent of suburbanization over the past half century and that Denver lost population in the 1970s and 1980s.

Denver’s gain in population is due primarily to several factors: the ongoing development of large infill sites like Stapleton and Lowry, the buildout of the city’s few remaining greenfield communities like Green Valley Ranch and Gateway, and the substantial densification and infill developments occurring with the city’s urban core. As noted in my recent post on Downtown Denver’s multifamily housing boom, over 6,000 residential units within the Downtown Denver area have been completed or are under construction since 2012, and over 10,000 residential units were completed in the Downtown area during the 2000s.

Finally, let’s take a look at the ten central/northern Front Range counties (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld), which account for the vast majority of the numeric population growth annually statewide over the past twelve years. In the chart below, I’ve tracked these ten counties based on their Top 10 statewide ranking by annual numeric population gain. Population figures used for 1990, 2000, and 2010 are the actual decennial census counts. All other years represents the US Census Bureau’s intercensal estimates, except for 2011 and 2012, which are from the just-released 2012 postcensal estimates. The missing values reflect annual ranking positions where Eagle, Fremont, Garfield, Mesa, and/or Pueblo counties entered the Top 10. If a county’s colored marker disappeared, that means it wasn’t in the Top 10 statewide for that year (click to embiggen):

A few trends are evident:

Douglas County ascended as the county with the highest population growth in the state from the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s. However, since the 2008 recession, the county’s growth has noticeably slowed.

Adams, Arapahoe, and El Paso counties have generally maintained a steady presence at or near the top of the chart, with some periodic ups-and-downs, over the past 12 years.

Weld County, which didn’t become a significant growth leader until the early 2000s, has also experienced a growth slowdown like Douglas County since the 2008 recession.

Boulder and Larimer counties show steady growth, but consistently in the bottom half of the Top 10.

Jefferson County saw a dramatic slowing of growth in the 1990s and early 2000s, but is making a bit of a comeback of late.

The Denver metro area generally slowed in growth during the “dot com” mini-recession of the early 2000s, during which some of the non-Front Range Counties occupied slots within the Top 10.

Denver County saw erratic but generally strong growth during the 1990s as the city’s renaissance started taking hold, but then disappeared from the Top 10 for several years during the “dot com” bust days, only to reappear and occupy the top slot statewide for four of the past five years.

In conclusion, Colorado’s Front Range continues to show steady growth in the post-recession era, with the most urban counties showing the strongest population growth.