Just the blog equivalent of thinking out loud here. It’s not that this data was surprising to me, so much as that I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Four cities in the western United States with some similar characteristics – arid climate, water supply challenges, growing populations. Each of the four is the dominant population center in an otherwise sparsely populated state. No claim here that other cities don’t have similar characteristics (in fact, I’d love feedback on other cities/states worth adding to the conversation).
First: total population in the Census-defined “Metropolitan Statistical Areas” since 1970:
Now, indexed with 1970=100, to get a feel for rate of growth independent of starting size:
It’s really this second one that interests me more – the relative growth curves are easier to see. Albuquerque and Salt Lake City growing slowly, Phoenix faster and Vegas’ growth curve bending up dramatically beginning in the late 1980s. This has all kinds of importance for water policy and regional economics. Though I’m not sure what to make of it all, just wanted to get it down somewhere for future reference.
If I’ve done this right, the spreadsheet’s posted here if anyone wants to have a look. Data source is US Census Bureau via the St. Louis Fed’s marvelous Excel plug-in and some math by me to aggregate MSAs from individual county data (danger!).
* I stole the “archipelago” concept from a talk by Mark Hagerty of Headwaters Economics, though his archipelago looks quite different from mine. But what we both mean, I think, is “economic islands in the sea that is the rural West”.