Thursday, July 10, 2003

Americans try to find their place in the sun

By Genaro C. Armas
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Americans on the move are seeking space and sun, turning once-sleepy suburbs in Arizona, Nevada and California into the fastest-growing cities in the country.

The Phoenix suburb of Gilbert has grown by nearly 25 percent in a little over two years to lead the way, say Census Bureau estimates being released today.

Communities around Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego also experienced population booms between April 2000 and July 2002.

Some of the new residents are people who left larger nearby cities.

But much of the growth was attributable to the continued migration of Americans to the South and West.

"Most of the places aren't job centers. They are mostly residential, master-planned, large-scale and very homeowners-association heavy," said Robert Lang, a demographer with the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

Older, industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest such as St. Louis, Detroit and Pittsburgh continued losing residents.

But some of the places that grew during the 1990s lost population as the economy cooled and housing prices remained high, said William Frey, demographer with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

New York remains the country's largest city with 8.1 million residents, an increase of just under 1 percent, or about 76,000 people.

It was followed by:

• Los Angeles (3.8 million).

• Chicago (2.9 million).

• Houston (2 million).

• Philadelphia (1.5 million).

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