Urban Core Boomer Populations Drop 1 Million 2000-2010

Published September 11, 2013

This may be a surprising headline to readers of The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, which reported  virtually the opposite result in their August 19 editions. The stories, “Hip,  Urban, Middle-Aged: Baby boomers are  moving into trendy urban neighborhoods, but young residents aren’t always  thrilled,”

by Nancy Keates in The  Wall Street Journal and “With  the kids gone, aging Baby Boomers opt for city life,” by Tara Barampour in  the Washington Post reported on  information from the real estate firm, Redfin (a link to the corrected Wall Street Journal story is below).  Both stories reported virtually the same thing: that 1,000,000 baby boomers  moved to within five miles of the city centers of the 50 largest cities between  2000 and 2010. Because these results appeared to be virtually the opposite of  census results, I  contacted both papers seeking corrections.

When pressed for more information, Redfin.com responded with a tweet indicating that: “We don’t have a link to share or published  study; Redfin did a special analysis of Census data at reporters’ requests.”

In fact, the census data shows virtually opposite. Redfin’s method was not clear, so I queried the five mile radius  within the main downtown areas of the 51 metropolitan areas with more than  1,000,000 population in 2010, shown below in the table and the figure.

Within the five mile radius of downtown, there  was a net loss of nearly 1,000,000 baby boomers, or 2 percent of the 2000  population (ages 35 to 55 in 2000). There was also a loss of 800,000 in the  suburbs, or 17 percent of the 2000 population. The continuing dispersion of the  nation is indicated by the fact that there was a gain of nearly 450,000 in this  cohort outside the major metropolitan areas. Overall, there was a net loss of  1.3 million, principally due to deaths.

To its credit, The Wall Street Journal issued a correction, as I would have  expected.  The incorrect reference to an increase of baby boomers in the urban cores was  removed. To my surprise, not only did the Washington Post fail to make a correction, but they also ignored  multiple requests to deal with the issue (though my emails received courteous computer  generated acknowledgements).

With the ongoing repetition of the “return to  the city from the suburbs” myth, it is important to draw conclusions from the  data, not from impressions.



Total Population        
Major Metropolitan Areas 2000 2010 Change %
5-Mile Radius of Downtown     5,811,000     4,826,000       (985,000) -17.0%
Balance   39,436,000   38,639,000       (797,000) -2.0%
Major Metropolitan Areas   45,247,000   43,464,000    (1,783,000) -3.9%
Outside Major Metropolitan Areas   37,579,000   38,025,000        446,000 1.2%
United States   82,826,000   81,489,000    (1,337,000) -1.6%
Data from    US Census, University of Missouri Radius Tool    
Statistical    discrepancy overstates 2010 population by approximately 0.5 percent.