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Growing smarter, not bigger

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/22/06 @ 11:00am

Cuyahoga County's population shrunk by 58,000 people and the surrounding counties grew by 40,000, The Plain Dealer reported yesterday.  The source for the story is the U.S. Census Bureau's mid-decade population estimates, which come out once a year in the summer.

The media has been criticized in the past for using the mid-decade Census estimates, which have an error rate of plus or minus 3 percent. When the estimates were used to report that Chicago had lost 1.2 percent of its population, for example, that number was easily within the margin of error. 

Carol Coletta, host and producer of the nationally-syndicated public radio show Smart City and president of CEOs for Cities, published an article in Planetizen last year where she criticized the Census Bureau for calculating population growth by counting only new single-family home constructions and not counting renovations or conversions. Coletta writes: "What this means, in fact, is that the Census Bureau actually cannot measure urban renaissance if urban renaissance brings with it the revitalization and renewal of older housing." 

Coletta adds that population is no longer the crucial factor in determining the economic success of cities. This seems to support the work of the Shrinking Cities Institute, which says that older, industrial cities like Cleveland and Youngstown don't need to grow bigger, just smarter.


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