Tag Archives: Is it different here?

Demographic Inversion


Is it different here? 

In a 2008 article from The New Republic they document a migration phenomenon in American cities and call it demographic inversion.  Essentially this is a reversal of historical patterns where now the poor are migrating to the suburbs and the wealthy are migrating back into the city core:

Chicago is gradually coming to resemble a traditional European city–Vienna or Paris in the nineteenth century, or, for that matter, Paris today. The poor and the newcomers are living on the outskirts. The people who live near the center–some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white–are those who can afford to do so.

Later on in the article, there is specific reference to Vancouver as an exceptional example of this kind of shift:

… venture just across the Canadian border to Vancouver, a city roughly the size of Washington, D.C. What makes it unusual–indeed, at this point unique in all of North America–is that roughly 20 percent of its residents live within a couple of square miles of each other in the city’s center. Downtown Vancouver is a forest of slender, green, condo skyscrapers, many of them with three-story townhouse units forming a kind of podium at the base. Each morning, there are nearly as many people commuting out of the center to jobs in the suburbs as there are commuting in. Two public elementary schools have opened in downtown Vancouver in the past few years. A large proportion of the city’s 600,000 residents, especially those with money, want to live downtown.

No American city looks like Vancouver at the moment. But quite a few are moving in this direction. Demographic inversions of one sort or another are occurring in urban pockets scattered all across America, many of them in seemingly unlikely places. Charlotte, North Carolina, is in the midst of a downtown building boom dominated by new mixed-use high-rise buildings, with office space on the bottom and condos or rental units above. Even at a moment of economic weakness, the condos are still selling briskly.

(underlines were added by me)

The article is fascinating throughout.  You can read it at: http://www.tnr.com/article/urban-policy/trading-places

Dare I suggest this is a paradigm shift in the death and life of great cities?  I suspect this is a partial and plausible explanation for the high prices seen in Vancouver. 

What do you all think of this?  Will this have any lasting impact on home prices and land use in the City of Vancouver?  What about the impacts on surrounding cities?