Cities are constantly evolving, and urban populations respond to a number of push–pull factors, including economic opportunity, lifestyle trends, land values, and natural disasters.
Beyond the headlines and raw census numbers, it can be difficult to take population patterns into perspective. The talented team over at The Pudding has created an amazing, granular map that shows these patterns as 3D stacks.
Our focus today will be on growth between 1990 and 2015, as urban settlement patterns across Canada and the U.S. shifted dramatically over this relatively short timeframe. Let’s take a look.
One of the most dramatic examples of robust growth is Toronto.
Canada’s largest city nearly doubled its population since 1990, and growth was distributed throughout the region. This city is a rare example of both extra-urban and downtown residential growth.
Vancouver is another Canadian city with a swelling urban population base. The city’s recent population growth has been heavily concentrated along transit lines and the downtown core, resulting in a “spiky” visualization which resembles the condo towers now dotting the city’s skyline.
Nearby, Seattle has added over a million people to its population since 1990. With one of the strongest economies in the country, it’s unlikely that momentum will slow any time soon.
Only recently have some cities begun to see urban residential construction. For much of the ’90s and ’00s, America’s growth was in peripheral suburbs, where land was plentiful and cheap.
This sprawl effect is particularly easy to spot in the Texas Triangle – which encompasses the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Houston – and Atlanta.
While Los Angeles did see a modest amount of growth over the past 25 years, it was the Inland Empire – anchored by San Bernardino and Riverside – that saw the most dramatic population growth in the region. The construction boom is only intensifying. The region added 50,000 new residents between 2016 and 2017.
In general, smaller towns either lost population or remained relatively static. The exception is in places where resource extraction caused a growth spurt. Two prime examples are in Gillette, Wyoming, and Fort McMurray, Alberta. In the latter town, oil sands extraction added tens of thousands of new residents in a short amount of time.
Mixed growth and Static Cities
Chicago experienced one of the most striking growth patterns over the past 25 years. The contrast between urban decline and growth in the exurbs is clearly revealed in this visualization.
Contrast is also clear when looking at divergent patterns of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. The nation’s capital and surrounding areas have been growing steadily in recent years, whereas the neighboring city’s population is declining towards a 100-year low.
While a number of urban areas experienced dramatic shifts in the last couple of decades, some cities sidestepped wild population swings. For example, much of Philadelphia’s population pattern remains similar to what it was in 1990.
Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Massachusetts, are examples of smaller cities that remained in stasis.
Decline and Disaster
A number of cities in America’s “Rust Belt” experienced declining populations. The visualizations of cities like Cleveland and Detroit show just how pronounced the exodus was.
The shrinking tax base and glut of vacant homes is causing a number of problems in the two cities, and with mixed economic prospects, it’s unclear what the next 25 years will bring in terms of population changes.
Often, population declines are the result of economic reasons such as a decline in manufacturing or general stagnation. On occasion though, the raw power of nature changes the course of a city’s history. This is the case in New Orleans, were Hurricane Katrina’s legacy is clearly seen in this visualization.
New Orleans did recover in the years after the hurricane. However, as of 2015, the city was still far below its pre-Katrina population. Resettlement has been patchy as well, which is reflected in the towering red peaks of the population map.
To explore your city or other parts of the world, visit The Pudding’s interactive map.
Charted: Average Years Left to Live by Age
Visualizing the number of years left to live for Americans at every age, reveals the broader trends in American life expectancy.
How Many Years Do You Have Left to Live?
At the start of the 19th century, when there fewer than 1 billion humans on the earth, global life expectancy at birth stood at roughly 29 years.
This is a startlingly low figure—because life expectancy is a statistical projection of how many more years a person can expect to live, based on the mortality rates at the time. And since the infant mortality rate in particular was so high, life expectancies accurately summarized the low likelihood of many babies living to adulthood.
However, since the 1920s, life expectancy across all ages has improved leaps and bounds, thanks to rapid advancements in nutrition, healthcare, and sanitation.
We visualized the current American life expectancy by age and gender, using data from the Office of Social Security, which bases their current projections on 2020 mortality rates.
American Life Expectancy at Every Age
A key takeaway with life expectancy is that it increases as one gets older. This is easily seen in the table below, which lists the remaining years left to live at a given age for an American male and the projected life expectancy.
|Age||Years Remaining (Men)||Life Expectancy (Men)|
At birth, an average American baby boy can expect to live till just past 74. But if the boy reaches adulthood, then at 21 he might live to a full year more, past 75. This trend persists even towards the end of life when the years we have left drop rapidly, influenced by the higher likelihood of death.
American women, on the other hand, have a higher life expectancy than men. At birth the gap is close to six years, narrowing steadily to around one year by 85.
Interestingly, women outlive men in nearly every country in the world, due to a mix of sociological, behavioral, and biological reasons.
COVID-19: Reversing A Decade of Increasing American Life Expectancy
While the current American life expectancy at birth seems reasonably high, it is nearly two years lower than the 2022 figure which used the 2019 mortality rate. It is also lower than the life expectancy at birth in 2009, which used 2005 mortality rate.
at Birth (Men)
at Birth (Women)
American mortality rates went up 17% between 2019–2020, in part because of COVID-19, in turn affecting life expectancy. The U.S. also had a higher COVID-19 mortality rate compared to its peers two years after the pandemic first struck.
Thus, American life expectancy may not improve immediately to 2019 levels, which can affect insurance premiums, pension benefits, and plans.
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