For the first time in decades, cities' populations are growing at a faster rate than suburbs'. The 51 US metropolitan regions with at least a million people expanded 1.1% between 2010 and 2011; suburbs grew just 0.9%, Census data show. Compare that to the past decade, which saw suburbs grow at three times the city rate. "What's significant about it is that it's pervasive across the country," says an analyst, who calls the findings a "milestone": "It's certainly put the brakes on something that's been a staple in America."
The switch—the first of its kind since the 1920s, when cars hit the scene—can be attributed to the recession, experts tell the Los Angeles Times. "The sharp downturn in the suburban housing market has left many cities holding on to would-be suburbanites," the analyst adds. Los Angeles expanded last year at more than twice the last decade's average annual rate; Chicago, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh have been growing after losing population throughout the last decade. Young people are a big part of the change as they stay in cities—or at home with their parents—rather than buying suburban property, the Times notes.