Seattle is the fastest growing city that is actually a city

A true city
A true city
Image: Reuters/Chris Helgren
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The US Census has just released data on the fastest growing cities in the US from 2016 to 2017. Or did they?

Irvine, California, at expanding at 4.2% and Henderson, Nevada, at 3.6% topped the list, which was limited to those with more than 200,000 residents. Seattle, Washington grew fastest among cities with at least 500,000.

The data show that Americans continue to flock south and west.

But is it actually fair to call these fast growing places cities? Probably not.

The economist Jed Kolko points out that most residents of Irvine, California don’t actually live in places the residents themselves would consider urban. When Kolko worked at the real estate website Trulia, his team conducted a survey of 2,000 people in the US asking them if they considered where they lived urban, suburban or rural. They found that many people who say they live in a suburb reside in what the US Census defines as a city.

According to their research, a good cutoff for whether someone thought they lived in an urban area was if they lived in an area with more than about 2,200 households per square mile. By that definition, only 12% of people in Irvine live in an urban area.

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Among the ten fastest growing cities, only Seattle is more than 50% urban by this definition. So congratulation Seattle, you are the fastest growing city that is actually a city.