For urbanists, population density fuels health City growth. Just visit any city in Europe to get a sense of the benefits of urban density such as walkability, civic coordination, historic and beautiful architecture, and many other benefits.

America largely fights trends toward urbanism. For much of American history, America developed out from the city’s core migrating both across the American expanse or to the suburbs.

American urbanist policymakers today are forced to confront the painful reasons for American “white flight.” Structural racism in the form of redlining, unfair school district funding models, and racist neighborhood associations caused a neo-segregation in American cities. Significant disinvestment occurred in many urban neighborhoods leading to food deserts, lack of entrepreneurship and small business ownership, blighted properties, and under-resourced schools.

For a few years, there was a growing sense that America would re-urbanize. However, recent census data suggests that urbanism is declining.

Suburbanization Getting Worse

Notably, major American metros are shrinking. Beginning in 2016, population growth rates reached negative levels in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. This reverses years of migration to the major metros. The cost of living prices new residents out of the major metros. Opportunities to remote work alleviate some of the geographic pressure on employment.

During 2016 to 2018, population growth in the urban core declined by more than 50%. Alternatively, the move toward newly built suburbs grew by 50%.

Renewable Energy and Urbanism

The digital nomad and electric vehicles could change American life dramatically. A digital nomad does not live in one specific place but travels constantly. Their work is digital and portable.

Electric and driverless vehicles offer radical improvements to transportation. It is foreseeable that in the lifetime of millennials they might plan cross-country trips overnight in the comfort of a driverless Tesla where they can sleep the duration of their trip.

Will this scenario accentuate urban development as citizens seek new places for cultural amenities, architecture, and the affordability of dense residential living? Or will the affordability and renewability of travel drive suburban infrastructure growth?