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Regional Divisions Dampen ‘90s Prosperity

New Census Data Show Economic Gains Vary by Region?/em>

John R. Logan, Director
Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research
University at Albany

June 5, 2002

This report and the data analyses on which it is based were completed with the assistance of Deirdre Oakley, Jacob Stowell, and Brian Stults.

The new census figures about metropolitan America contain some good news. More adults now have a college education and professional or managerial jobs than a decade ago. Incomes are up, and poverty and unemployment have dipped slightly. But analyses of these data by the Mumford Center reveal a much more mixed picture:

  • Trends vary dramatically around the country. The nation’s two global cities, New York and Los Angeles, rather than leading the nation, have lagged well behind, as have the metropolitan regions that surround them. The big improvements are in the Midwest and South: the Midwest is beginning to shed its rustbelt image, and many Southern metro areas continue their upward trajectory.

  • These contrasts are especially stark within California. Two Californias have emerged: a northern section that has experienced strong economic growth, and a southern and central section in decline.

  • Especially in regions that fell behind during the decade, there is a pattern of 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.

In May 2002, the Census Bureau released Demographic Profile data on a wide range of social and economic indicators, based on the census’s long form questionnaire, which was completed by a 1-in-6 sample of households. This report examines trends in economic prosperity in the Nation’s 331 metropolitan areas between 1990 and 2000 with a total current population of 225 million people.

Rather than depend on a single indicator, we have created the Mumford Prosperity Index (MPI) with eight equally weighted components. It includes three income measures (median household income, per capita income, and percent below the poverty line), percent unemployed, two measures of human capital (percentage of the population who are college educated and in professional and managerial occupations), as well as two housing indicators (the vacancy rate and percent homeowners). The following analysis reports values for the MPI as well as for several individual indicators.

?small>Material in this report, including charts and tables, may be reproduced with acknowledgment of the Mumford Center as the source.


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