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1A Remaking America: Guiding growth in up-and-coming cities

In an aerial view, the downtown skyline is seen in Austin, Texas.
In an aerial view, the downtown skyline is seen in Austin, Texas.

The U.S. population has grown by more than 20 million people since 2010. But where those new Americans end up is not even across the board.

The populations of half of all counties in the U.S. shrank from 2010 to 2020, while those of most metropolitan areas continued to grow.

“It’s feast or famine,” says city planner Alan Mallach. “Some places are getting more growth than they can handle. And some aren’t getting any growth or are shrinking.”

People flock to booming cities for good reasons: jobs, educational opportunities, cultural and recreational activities. But traffic can be a nightmare and housing costs are off the charts.

“Very few, if any, growing cities have given real thought to what they want to be when they grow up,” said Mallach. “They’ve been conditioned to think that growth is good, not growing is bad, so what passes for planning is usually about how to accommodate growth.”

The population of Austin, Texas, has grown more than 33 percent since 2010. The median cost of a house in Austin jumped from less than $200,000 in 2010 to more than $500,000 in 2022.

We take a look at Austin through the lens of KUT’s latest podcast “Growth Machine: How Austin Engineered its Housing Market.”We discuss why and how cities grow, and what impacts growth has on residents. We also take a look at the fastest-growing state in the U.S.: Utah.


This show is part of 1A’s “Remaking America” project looking at how our government is – and is not – working for everyone. It’s a partnership with six public radio stations, including KUT in Austin, Texas.

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

June Leffler