If you missed the late 1980s in
By the end of the decade, the city was suffering from the civic equivalent of clinical depression. Wilson Goode was mayor, though just barely. After the
As to the rest, the
The 1990 census kept the loop rolling. The city's lost 102,000 residents in the 1980s and the population had fallen to just under 1.6 million, down from 2.1 million in 1950.
I did a spreadsheet and projected those numbers forward. If the city continued to lose percent of its population each decade, it would fall to the 1.1 million somewhere around 2020, then slip below a million sometime before 2030.
I am delighted to say those projections were wrong. The rate of decline in populationslowed during the 1990s, came to a stop sometime during this decade and the 2010 census is expected to show that the city's population has grown during this decade.
A July 2009 census estimate, cited in a recent Pew report, put the city's population at 1,547,297, up 30,000 from 2000. It's a small gain, but I'll take it.
The same report, done by Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative, showed that out-migration from the city has slowed in this decade. Fewer people are leaving
When you subtract those leaving with those arriving, there is still a net decline. But, the Pew report speculates, that is probably being made up by births and the influx of foreign immigrants. (You can read a copy of the Pew report here.)
How did this happen? How did the city stop its 50-year downward slide in population and begin to grow?
I'm sure there will be plenty of seminars on that topic come 2011, when the U.S. Census count is officially released. And I am sure there will be lots of people ready to take bows. I'm also sure there is no one thing that made the difference. Some were internal - the activist agenda of Mayor Ed Rendell has to count for a lot. Some were external - the improved national economy during most of the last 20 years surely is a factor. Some were a mix of both.
But, a lot of it has to do with the fact that
It seems odd to say that
After World War II, cities were places people wanted to escape from, as if they were prisons. The new model for living was the suburbs - orderly, clean, quiet and crime-free. It's where Ozzie and Harriet, Fred McMurray and his three sons, Donna Reed and Robert Young lived.
For decades, cities lost the image war. The worst was in the 70s. Just think of live in the city presented in these movies: Serpico (73); Death Wish (74), Dog Day Afternoon (75), Taxi Driver (76).
When my wife and I moved onto our block in
A few years ago, I got a call from an older guy from
Of course, he said, it must be terrible for you living there. It's all ruined now. None of that is left. I told him that a lot of what he mentioned was alive and kicking and that he should visit the area again.
No, he said, it's ruined. It's not safe. It just isn't what it was.
He was right about that. The neighborhood isn't what it was when he left - which was holding on by its fingertips. It had changed, grown and thrived, mostly due to the influx of newcomers (they called us The Strangers) who wanted to live in a city. We were urbanites. And that tribe has grown over the decades.
I grew up in the burbs, so I get them. My sons, who were born and raised in the city, have a genuine distaste for them. A few years ago, when my oldest was 16, I took him on an errand to
To him and to a growing number of his generation, cities make sense. For the sake of