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Posts about Demographics


Millennials still drive! ... less than other people do

Did you know that:
• Most millennials don't use Uber?
• Most millennials don't shop at Wegman's?
• Most millennials don't live in Austin?
• Most millennials in the Washington region drive to work alone?
• Most people may be misled by recent headlines about millennials?

Image from the study.

Last week, the American University Kogod School of Business released a new Millennials Index based on an online-only survey of 300 people ages 20-34. Amid a lot of interesting findings, the report contained the above graph of transportation mode choices, along with this provocative statement:

While Millennials are often cited as heavy users of alternative transit options, like bike shares and car shares, the reality from our study is that 60% of greater Washington area Millennials are driving alone to work often or always. That's three times the number who are using the Metro to commute.
While this data is interesting and useful, the reality is that, first, this is not a surprise, and second, this statement is misleadingly worded.

Yes, more people drive alone than take Metro. But, as Faiz Siddiqui wrote in the Washington Post,

Some needed context for the study: The proportion of millennial drivers in the transit-dense District pales in comparison to the nationwide figure. Census figures showed 76.4 percent of American workers commuted by driving in 2013. In the D.C. region, 75.7 percent of workers commuted by driving.

So, millennials drive. But they still drive at a lower rate than the overall population.

Unfortunately, the Post put a headline on Siddiqui's article that glossed over this important point: "For millennials, commuting around D.C. means choosing 'the lesser of their evils'—and that's driving."

Not "most millennials" or "many but fewer than the national average" (yes, that's hard to fit in a headline). The above statement in the millennial report and several other news stories on the same topic (such as ones in the Washington Business Journal and WTOP) also reinforced one or more common fallacies I've noticed in transportation discussions with statistics.

The "most millennials don't live in Austin" fallacy: As Siddiqui noted, while most millennials drive, many fewer do than other groups. A Nielsen study found high concentrations of millennials in certain areas (including Washington as #6). But most millennials still don't live in Austin, or Salt Lake City, or DC, just because there are so many other places in the US. They do, however, live there at higher rates than others.

This study polled millennials in the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes part of West Virginia. Metro doesn't extend there, and even the closer-in-counties like Montgomery, Prince George's, and Fairfax are huge, including land far from most transit. As Arlington Transportation Partners notes, a ULI study of millennials found that inside the Beltway, only 26% commuted by car.

The "most millennials don't use Uber" fallacy: Just because something isn't the majority doesn't mean it's not growing. As Ben Freed pointed out in Washingtonian, "New transportation infrastructure and technologies are redrawing our mental maps of the region, but not overnight." Not many people used Capital Bikeshare in the survey, but it's a lot more than five years ago! Most millennials also still don't use Uber, but nobody questions that it's a fast-growing trend.

The "most millennials don't shop at Wegman's" fallacy: Just because something isn't the majority doesn't mean people don't want it. A lot of people would love to shop at a Wegman's: it's hugely popular. But there aren't many of them, so most people don't shop there. We've spent a century building car infrastructure to every single house, but not transit to even every town, let alone every neighborhood. In many parts of the region, transit is just not an available option. This doesn't make it undesired, just unavailable.

I'd also call this one the "Kotkin fallacy" after writer Joel Kotkin, who regularly argues that people prefer suburbs over walkable urban areas because most people live in them. That ignores the fact that there are few walkable urban neighborhoods compared to the many, many suburban ones (and the walkable urban ones are far more expensive).

Meanwhile, many millennials (maybe not all) said that housing prices were a top concern. They called housing prices "insane," "atrocious" and "unaffordable," and put housing cost as the second-highest concern, after finding a job.

What fallacies do you see in news coverage of studies like this? What other analogies can you think of?


Watch the world's urban population explode on one map

The number of urban areas in the world with a population over one million has exploded since 1950. This map shows just how extreme that explosion has been.

Image from KPMG.

On the map, from KPMG Demographics, you can see how in 1950 the world's scant million-plus cities were heavily concentrated in western Europe, the northeastern United States, and Japan. Since then, not many new ones have popped up in those places, but the rest of the world has caught up big time.

By the 1980s, China, India, and southeast Asia are challenging the west's dominance. By the turn of the millenium, the middle east and central Africa join the party. South America keeps up a slower but steady pace the whole time.

What jumps out to you?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


There's a big racial disparity in where people born in DC end up moving (or not moving)

Thirty-two percent of black people born in DC still live there, but only 4% of white people born there do. Where they've moved to also differs greatly by race. This disparity arose from racial and racist policies in our history.

Excludes those who identify as Hispanic. Image by the author.

Last year, The New York Times created a set of fascinating charts that illustrate migration patterns between US states. The out-migration chart for the District showed that almost half of the people born in the city had moved to Maryland or Virginia.

Excludes those who identify as Hispanic. Image by the author.

The experiences behind these figures differ greatly for black and white Washingtonians. These two graphics attempt to break down the original chart to tell these two distinct stories, using data from the US Census Bureau retrieved through the University of Minnesota's Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. All numbers and percentages discussed only represent movement between the District and other US states; they don't represent migration out of the country.

Discrimination against blacks long kept them from moving to Maryland

White Washingtonians first began moving to Maryland in droves in the 1940s (that's the first big bump in the second chart), but blacks were excluded from this migration pattern for another three decades. Private housing developers and neighborhood associations used restrictive covenants to ensure that only whites would live in these communities (this practice was occurring within DC as well, and everywhere else, and had been commonplace for decades). Most public housing developments, like those developed in those in Greenbelt, Maryland, in 1937 for whites-only, were segregated too.

In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not legally enforce these covenants. Private parties, though, could continue to honor the terms, and they did.

In addition to being excluded from white neighborhoods, which included almost all communities adjacent to but outside of the District, black Americans faced other forms of harsh housing discrimination. Federal intervention in the mortgage industry revolutionized the housing finance system in the US starting in the 1930s and 40s by supporting cheap, long-term mortgages with low down payment requirements. But only whites were able to take advantage of these products.

In the National Capital area, two-thirds of these loans were made to homebuyers outside of the District's boundaries and almost all loans, everywhere, were made in predominately-white areas. Add to the mix the practice of racial steering and the reality of gaping income disparities between blacks and whites, and it is no surprise that before the 1970s, less than 10% of all District-born blacks lived in Maryland and Virginia (including all the cities in those states, not just the communities close to DC).

Trends started to change, especially in Prince George's

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 did not eliminate race-based housing discrimination, but did make it illegal, vastly increasing minority access to areas from which they had been previously excluded. In 1970, 8% of District-born blacks lived in Maryland. By 1980, that share more than tripled to 27%.

Black migration from DC to Maryland continued to increase from 1980 to 2000, but at a slightly slower pace. It has since plateaued, with approximately 44% of District-born blacks now residing in Maryland.

Most of the moves the District-born black population has made over the last four decades have been to Prince George's County. More District-born blacks live in Prince George's County than live in the entire District of Columbia, with 33% living in the county. However, that percentage seems to have leveled off and remained steady since 2000.

More and more DC-born blacks are heading to new destinations, both in nearby places like Charles County (70% increase between 2000-2010) and more distant ones like North Carolina (46% increase between 2000-2010). There are more District-born blacks in North Carolina than there are in the entire Northeast region of the country, and more than in the entire West and Midwest regions combined. Many are moving to other parts of the South too, with notable clusters emerging in and around Atlanta and Memphis.

For whites, the experience has been very different

Very few white people who are born in the District stay there, although that trend appears to be reversing slightly after reaching a low point in 2000, when the percentage was less than 3%. The history behind these figures has been partially described in the paragraphs above: whites enjoyed all of the opportunities blacks were denied.

Huge numbers of white Washingtonians left the city between 1940 and 1960. About 42% of those who left moved to Maryland, and 17% moved to Virginia. Small but growing numbers moved west and south, particularly to California and Florida. These trends continued, but after 1990 Maryland started to see its share of District-born whites decline as people continued to move increasingly West and South (a trend not unique to those born in DC).


The clear differences between how black and white residents born in the District have moved around the United States highlight important elements of our history. The steady flow of white Washingtonians out of the city, which accelerated starting in the 1940s, reflects a population taking advantage of public policies designed to help them build wealth.

Meanwhile, black Washingtonians' lack of mobility illustrates how policy makers discriminated against blacks for at least another three decades while their white counterparts solidified their middle-class, home-owning status. These charts tell the story of blatant institutional racism targeting blacks 40 years ago, not 400.

Access to education, employment, wealth, and safety are closely tied to geography. It's imperative that our current and future public policies foster access to these opportunities for black Washingtonians and other traditionally excluded groups so that the next version of these charts conveys progress rather than continued inequality.

Crossposted at R.U. Seriousing Me?


Incomes are rising in the District, but not for people born here

Between 2006 and 2012, incomes for DC residents born in another US state increased by approximately 12%. But for people born in DC, they decreased by more than 16%. A rising tide, it turns out, will not necessarily lift all boats.

Graph by the author.

These numbers come via the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Some argue that the construction and service sector jobs brought on by the city's economic development will help compensate for the increased cost of living. But depressingly, the data below show that District residents who were born in DC are actually bringing in less income than in the past, despite a general upward trend in income for other groups.

On the surface, it's easy to say that life is good for the District: Families have earlier access to public education for their children and DC's schools are getting better, there are more transportation options and full-service grocery stores, crime is falling, and city's new recreational and civic amenities are amazing.

In the face of the rising housing costs stemming from all this increased desirability, the truth remains: if you don't make enough money, it's hard to get by in DC.

Cross-posted at R.U. Seriousing Me?


The Washington region is the world's 77th largest urban area

Using a consistent apples-to-apples counting method, Demographia ranked the world's major urban areas by population. With nearly 38 million residents, Tokyo is by far the world's largest, and is nearly twice the size of New York's 21 million. DC clocks in with about 5 million, good for 77th in the world.

Tokyo is the world's largest city. Photo from reddit user panic_switch.

Cities are hard to measure

It's actually quite difficult to compare urban populations on any kind of consistent basis. City populations that follow municipal boundaries are arbitrary and inconsistent—some cities include their suburbs, while others do not.

Metropolitan areas are likewise difficult to nail down. In the US, the Census defines metro areas based on county boundaries, resulting in huge geographic disparities, especially in the west where some counties are the size of eastern states. Other countries use totally different methods.

Generally, the only way to build an apples-to-apples comparison is to map out the continuous built-up area of a region, and then measure the population within that area. With good enough data and consistent cut-off points, meaningful comparisons are possible. That's called an urban area, and enough countries publish data on them that it's possible to build a reasonably consistent world list.

Demographia did the leg work of stapling together government population data from countries around the world to build this list. Demographia is owned by famous sprawl proponent Wendell Cox, and pushes a generally pro-car/anti-transit ideology. But numbers are numbers, and these are interesting numbers.

The ranking

Demographia's complete list covers every urban area in the world with a population above 500,000. It's about 1,000 cities long.

Tokyo tops the list with almost 38 million people. Jakarta is second with about 30 million. Delhi, Manila, and Seoul round out the top five.

New York has 21 million and is the largest urban area outside of Asia, good for 9th worldwide. Los Angeles has 15 million and is 18th. Paris is 29th. London is 32nd.

In Maryland and Virginia, Baltimore is 206th with 2.3 million, Norfolk/Virginia Beach is 336th with 1.5 million, and Richmond is 485th with about 1 million.

What surprises you? What stands out?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Here's what keeps people from riding a bike

For 10 years, urban policymakers have been talking more and more about the so-called "interested but concerned"—people who would like to bike more but who are, for some reason, held back.

Photo by Christopher Porter on Flickr.

Make biking attractive to those people, the thinking goes, and great things can happen to a city: road capacity rises, parking shortages ease, auto dependence declines, development costs fall, public health improves.

Since then, several local studies have explored the opinions of these people, usually within cities that were already fairly bike-friendly. But since the "interested but concerned" concept was popularized, there's never been a study of these people at the national level.

Until now, that is.

Photo by 10 10 on Flickr.

A new national survey interviewed 9,376 adults who want to bike more

As part of its new national survey about bicycling participation, PeopleForBikes hired a public research firm to anonymously ask thousands of U.S. adults a series of questions. One of them: whether they would like to ride a bicycle more often.

To make sure people weren't lying to make us happy, we also asked whether they'd ever visited an imaginary website, and then disregarded all answers from people who claimed they had. After that, to ensure a representative sample, we weighted the remaining answers by age, gender, region, ethnicity, and income to make the sample look like the United States.

As we shared earlier this month, 53 percent of American adults answered that yes, they want to bike more.

But that question also gave us an opportunity to do something else: to look more closely at the situations of the people who answered "yes" to this question. By comparing their answers to different questions, we can explore one of the holy grails of bicycling advocacy: what the most important obstacles to biking might be.

After a week of looking closely at the numbers, here are our six most interesting discoveries.

Chicago's Milwaukee Avenue. Photo by John Greenfield on Flickr.

1. One third of people who want to bike more are dissatisfied with existing bike infrastructure

Among people who would like to ride more, 34 percent disagree with the statement below, 26 percent are neutral and 38 percent agree.

All graphs from People for Bikes.

This is actually slightly better than the population at large (31 percent of all adults agree with the statement), which probably reflects the fact that people who like to bike tend to live in bike-friendlier areas. But it still leaves a huge share of adults who disagree—and speaks to the fact that in the United States, we simply haven't built enough bike-friendly neighborhoods to serve even the people who currently wish they could live in them.

Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo from People for Bikes.

2. Bicycle ownership is a major barrier to riding, especially among poorer households

It's pretty hard to ride a bike regularly if you don't own one—or, even more frustrating, if your tire went flat or your brake cable snapped and you've never gotten around to fixing it.

The good news is that adults who know they want to ride more are about 25 percent likelier than the population at large to have at least one working adult bike in their home. But even among these interested adults, 35 percent still have no bike. This problem is dramatically higher for low-income families:

This is actually a powerful argument for (among other things) affordable, accessible bike sharing. Because bike-share systems essentially pool bike purchase and maintenance costs among many different people, they can be even cheaper than bike ownership as a way to get around.

Photo by waltarrrrr on Flickr via People for Bikes.

3. Fear of being personally targeted is a major barrier to riders of color

Traffic collisions aren't the only physical threat that keeps people off bicycles. Depending on what you look like and where you live, you might be biking less than you'd like because you're afraid of being targeted by a criminal—or maybe, sad to say, by law enforcement. On average, 41 percent of people who want to bike more agree with the statement below, but there's a lot of variation by race—more than the variation by gender, region or income.

According to this survey, white adults who want to bike more are least likely to have this concern; 38 percent do. But the concern is shared by more than half of Hispanic adults who want to bike more: 52 percent.

Photo by radworld on Flickr.

4. The western United States is much better at the bike + transit combo

Bicycles are the "secret weapon of suburban sustainable transport," says Ben Plowden of Transport for London. By designing all-ages bikeways that connect to public transit routes and hubs, U.S. suburbs can dramatically reduce car dependence and start increasing transit quality.

But to do that, you've got to be able to ride your bike to the rail station, load it onto a bus rack, park it securely while you're away, and so on. Our survey found that 35 percent of U.S. adults disagree with the statement below, compared to 26 percent who are neutral and 38 perent who agree. Intriguingly, the answer to this question varies widely by region. "Interested but concerned" bikers in the western United States are far more likely to be satisfied with bike-transit integration. Cities and transit agencies east of the Great Plains should look to Asia and Europe for ideas, but they can also look west.

Monroe, Washington. Photo by papahazama on Flickr.

5. Every group worries a lot about getting hit by cars, but some more than others

There wasn't much divide on this issue among men and women or among people of different incomes. There was a bigger difference by race and ethnicity. Black adults were the least likely to agree with this statement (though still 57 percent) and Hispanic adults the most likely (a whopping 66 percent).

But the biggest divide of all was actually by region, with 65 percent of adults in the South agreeing with this worry and only 54 percent of adults in the Midwest.

This brings us to our final observation...

Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh. Photo from People for Bikes.

6. Every single demographic group wants protected bike lanes

Not much ambiguity here.

Compared to 46 percent of the general population, an overwhelming 64 percent of people who would like to bike more say that protected bike lanes would make a difference to their transportation choices. Of this "interested but concerned" group—which, to reiterate, consists of half the U.S. adult population—only 13 percent disagreed with the statement above.

As with the other questions, we broke this finding out by gender, region, income and race to look for trends within the data. We found exactly one trend: everyone feels more or less the same way.

And that's all we have to say about that.

This post originally appeared on the blog of The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps US cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.


Young people are living closer to the center of the region

There are more people in their 20s and early 30s in the center of the region than there were in the past, but farther out, they're less prevalent. A great set of graphs from UVA's StatChat show the change:

Graph for the Washington area. Image from UVA StatChat.

The orange line represents the 1990 Census; the brown one, the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year estimates. This counts people from age 22 (to try to exclude college students) to 34 (the usual line between Millenials and Generation Xers).

The StatChat post emphasizes that if the 2012 line is lower than the 1990 line, that doesn't mean young people are abandoning that area. Rather,

Across the country, young adults make up a smaller percentage of the population than they have in a long time. It's not because there are fewer of them (though there may be soon), but because there are far more older people. Thus, in any given area or group, they make up a smaller proportion of the population.
So if you pick a random smaller US city not known for its "creative economy" hub, the percentage of young people has declined at all distances. But the trend is very different close to many city centers, including ours.

The StatChat post also reminds us that just because more Millenials are moving to the center, it doesn't mean all are. Young people live everywhere. And, as Dan Reed has pointed out, many are clustering around other urban places like Silver Spring, which doesn't show up on this graph since it's aggregated with everything else six miles from downtown.

I'm curious why our region has (and had in 1990) a peak around 22 miles from the core. Is that the "drive till you qualify" line where housing is cheap enough for younger people to afford? Or is there a specific area with a lot of younger people around that distance? Any ideas?

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