A review of newly released census data shows, for example, that cities of between 20,000 and 50,000 residents have lagged behind their larger counterparts in attracting higher-educated residents in this decade.
In 2000, small cities, which include remote towns and the distant suburbs known as "exurbs," ranked at the top in the share of people with college diplomas. They slipped to No. 2 last year with 30 percent holding degrees -- in between medium-sized cities, which had 31 percent, and big cities, at 29.8 percent.
Poverty is growing in the small cities, fueled partly by population growth, although average median income of $60,294 in those communities is still higher than other places.
Compared with previous years, they had smaller incomes, higher housing costs, longer commutes, more poverty and more single-parent families. Demographers attributed some of the shifts to the housing downturn and a spike in gasoline prices, which has hit residents in the far-flung exurbs harder. Many families in smaller towns also are looking for jobs in larger cities because of the current recession and are rethinking the wisdom of a lengthy commute to work.Now all these places like Hoover, Anniston, Tuscaloosa, and Gadsden are starting to feel the pinch of the economy and aren't growing as fast as they used to. They are seeing levels of poverty increase with its inhabitants and aren't fully-equipped to handle it like the large cities like Birmingham.
Some small cities may have become victims of their own success. As their local economies boomed mid-decade, many places grew rapidly and attracted lower-income residents needed to build roads, schools and other public works projects. Some of these areas have shot up in size and are now medium-sized communities.
"Small towns have a certain appeal to people, and their quality of life there is backed up by the data," said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau. "But as more people move in, small towns start to lose the qualities that attracted people there in the first place."
The shifts are notable in the ranks of the educated.
I knew this was going to occur since here in Central Alabama everybody wants to diss Birmingham as this "horrible place" and flock to the suburbs and exurbs. Now they see that if you run from your problems then your problems will always find you even in the smaller cities. Hence why I enjoy and continuously want to live in the city where you know what to expect and expect what you know.