Planning for a More Dynamic Population

U.S. map puzzle

The U.S. has experienced "demographic tsunamis" in the past: post-Civil War Reconstruction, European immigration of 1845-1920, rapid post-WWII suburbanization, the Cuban immigration to Miami in 1960-1961, the shift to the Sunbelt in the 1980s, and the "return to the city" movement of recent decades.

We have termed this general phenomenon "The Changing Face of America," and APA is responding in a number of ways:

  • Sessions at the annual National Planning Conference
  • Books and PAS Reports
  • A series of bibliographies on the topics most related to the forecasted changes
  • The Daniel Burnham Forum on the future
  • Division Initiatives involving programs, case studies, special reports, and more
  • New interest groups on food systems, sustainability, aging, and civic engagement

What's next, and what can we learn from the past?

Population Dynamics

The U.S. population is incredibly mobile and ever changing. Just a few of the trends from the 2010 Census and the literature that will affect planners over the next decade include:

  • Minorities as the majority: The face of America is changing, becoming more diverse; many metros no longer have a single racial/ethnic majority. How do planners need to adapt to cultural imperatives and invent new approaches to civic engagement?
  • The population is aging: The workforce would decline but for immigration.  How do we foster economic growth while supporting an increasingly more dependent population?  
  • Re-urbanization: There has been somewhat of a "back-to-the-city movement" and former declining cities are again growing; some in unexpected ways.  What should planners do to create the 21st Century City?
  • Shrinking Cities and Suburbs: Some cities, and suburbs, are shrinking, facing a permanently smaller population.  Foreclosures have depopulated entire neighborhoods in both urban and suburban communities.  How can planners address the key issues in these communities?

There have been massive regional shifts in population and jobs over the past several decades. Are these trends changing? How?

How do planners adapt to new needs/demands? What planning issues are generated by population trends?

  • New methods for community engagement;
  • Infill and densification of existing neighborhoods;
  • Expanded uses on single family lots — accessory dwelling ordinances; home occupation; even a re-definition of "family";
  • Legal reforms needed to "clear" the housing market

Immigration Bibliography

APA has gathered together a bibliography on the issue of immigration, looking at the topic from myriad perspectives: American demographics of the future, majority-minority communities, ethnic diversity, and the law.

Annotated Bibliography on Immigration

Shrinking Communities Bibliography

Population movements produce both positive and negative externalities. Communities losing population, however, usually have bigger problems than those growing rapidly.

Many communities are shrinking; often permanently. Rust Belt cities that have lost their manufacturing base have experienced substantial population declines, leading to deteriorating housing, infrastructure, brownfields, and a host of other physical conditions that are massively expensive to reverse. Some potential planning issues include:

  • Planning for a shrinking city;
  • Valuing and recycling vacant land, housing and commercial properties;
  • Paying for less, rather than more — restructuring infrastructure finances;
  • Innovative models for redevelopment

Annotated Bibliography of Shrinking Cities Resources

From APA Division Newsletters

Planning & Law: Getting Real about Shrinking Cities

Changing Face of America Bibliography

There is a substantial literature on many of the subjects in the Changing Face of America initiative, and after all — past is prologue. This online resource is for planners and researchers seeking an interdisciplinary, annotated bibliography of literature that explores some of the trends that have resulted from massive regional shifts in population and jobs over the past several decades including:

  • minorities in the majority
  • aging population
  • reurbanization

New publications and educational opportunities will be added periodically so please revisit this list to see the most current ideas about the Changing Face of America. And, as APA Divisions and Chapters create new resources, they will be added to the lists.

Annotated Bibliography of Changing Face of America Resources

National Planning Conference Presentations

These presentations were part of the Immigration/Migration Track at APA's 2014 National Planning Conference in Atlanta.

Funding Corridor Revitalization (pdf)

Gender and Migration in U.S. Planning (pdf)

Immigration and Community Development (pdf)

Immigration Impact on Economic Development (pdf)

Overcoming Gender Bias in Immigrant Communities (pdf)


Higher levels of rental housing may result in increased movement or mobility. For example, Arlington, Virginia's population has been relatively stable; however, half of the households living there today lived in another place within the past five years.

In half a decade or less a community has the potential to change its population dramatically. Using Arlington as an example again, approximately 20,000 workers — 10 percent of the total workforce — are being transferred to other areas of the region and the country as a result of Base Realignment and Closure. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that all of these workers are leaving locations well served by mass transit for areas with no significant transit service.

Within the same region, one city's policies regarding immigration have caused thousands to relocate to surrounding communities. Intra-regional shifts of households and jobs can have huge repercussions.  Some potential planning issues:

  • Federal policy regarding locations of federal facilities;
  • Flexible affordable housing policies;
  • Housing and tenant support systems;
  • Resilience in systems and programs to rapidly respond to needs;
  • New forms of civic engagement that increase outreach and participation