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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 3, 2004, 11:43 PM
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Sulley Sulley is offline
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Some VERY interesting Nashville Population Numbers

While spending the evening at the Sheraton last night, I decided to do some research on Nashville's population at the Central Library the next morning.

The topic in question?

Did Nashville suffer the same population decline as other cities across the nation during the last half of the twentieth century? I have always wondered this about Nashville and set out to find the truth.

These are my findings.

Here is the graph illustrating population growth of the city. For those who don't know Nashville, the large spike in population from 1960 to 1970 was due to the fact that the city of Nashville consolidated with Davidson County in 1963.

1900: 80,865
1910: 110,364
1920: 118,342
1930: 153,866
1940: 167,402
1950: 174,307
1960: 166,287
1970: 448,003
1980: 477,811
1990: 510,784
2000: 569,891

After contacting the head librarian of the Nashville Room at the library, we found maps and archives of pre-1963 Nashville. I looked at the pre-consolidated city limits of Nashville and discovered that in 1960, the city of Nashville encompassed 33.5 square miles, and had a population of 166,287. The city proper had a density of 4,964 people per square mile (Oh, to have that density again...).

Reading through the books that were found, I noticed that there was a population drop of 8,000 from 1950 to 1960. Quite intriguing.

1950: 174,307
1960: 166,287


Here are two quotes from the book:

"The pattern of growth indiciated by these figures is consistent with the national pattern -- that is, diminishing growth in the central city, even decline, and a mushrooming of the county outside..."

"Without consolidation, Nashville is dead..."

This is one of the maps from the book that showcased the old city limits:



Reading on, the librarian and I found the ZIP codes of pre-consolidated Nashville. They are still the same today and follow the old city boundries. The ZIP codes of pre-consolidated Nashville are:

37201, 37203, 37204, 37206, 37212, 37213, 37219. 37228.

Bingo. Now that we found those numbers, all we had to do was add the population together of the ZIP codes today and compare them to the 1960 numbers.

Adding up the numbers, we found these results for the year 2000:

37201 - 1,167
37203 - 12,718
37204 - 11,024
37206 - 27,751
37212 - 18,547
37213 - 137
37219 - 830
37228 - 331

The total of the old city in 2000?

72,505.

That's decline of 101,802 people from the high population in 1950. I was shocked. I expected a drop, but nothing of that magnitude. Hoping that things had changed since 1990, I pulled the 1990 Census numbers and compare them to the 2000 numbers. Unfortunately, there were 1,315 more people in the old city in 1990

Conclusion:

I can only draw one conclusion from my studies: Nashville did indeed suffer the same decline as other cities in the country, but it was masked by the fact that the city consolidated with the entire county, thus appearing as the city grew. If Nashville hadn't consolidated, it would have been MUCH smaller today.


Sources:

Nashville Metro - The Politics of City/County Consolidation

Nashville Central Library Nashville Room Archives

Tennessee Almanac 1960

Please note that this isn't a bash. I was just curious about it and thought I would share my results...
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Last edited by Sulley; Feb 3, 2004 at 11:49 PM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 12:00 AM
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Re: Some VERY interesting Nashville Population Numbers

[QUOTE=DallasTexan ]If Nashville hadn't consolidated, it would have been MUCH smaller today.[QUOTE]

That's a big fat juicy "DUH"
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  #3  
Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 12:09 AM
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That's a very interesting study you did there. But I'm not really surprised with the results. I think the outcome would be similar with a large majority of cities.

Of course the 60's was the era of urban renewal projects as well as interstate highway construction.

That gets me thinking. Did you do a decade by decade comparison to show which one had the worst decline?

Also, I'm surprised that zip-code geographical areas didn't change at all. That's not the case in many cities.
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 12:37 AM
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Amazing, the old city with 72,000 people. Pity, it sure didn't look like a city of 72,000 as I drove past the skyline tonight. Maybe the other 1,300,000 (give or take) are just hiding in the bushes (just over that 40-year-old city limits line).

As I mentioned to you earlier Justin. The history of American cities in mid-twentieth century depicted populations experiencing greater mobility, the rapid and disjointed growth of suburbia, the flight of whites from the center cities to the suburbs with retail and educational opportunities changing the landscape of everything they'd known before. In essence, people followed the American dream of home ownership, chickens in the pot, and cars in the driveway. All well and good...I can smell my chicken now and I do appreciate my two-car garage. But, I say this to all of you out there who seem to think that someone is to "blame" for all this. The world changes, it follows patterns. There's a new pattern coming. What's important now is to ask ourselves, who, in this collection of urban boosters is actually going to MOVE downtown and reverse this mid-century flight and help cities become the fine, functional urban centers you all say you want so much. Don't expect me, or anyone of MY contemporaries to do it for you. It's up to you. It'll take intelligence, and by all means, action, not just words. So pack your bags, get downtown, and change it. Fortunately, it is happening. I'd sure like to be a part of it, and plan to be some day. It's going to be a chore, but I can assure you, Nashville's onboard, are you?
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 1:03 AM
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The same thing happened in Jacksonville. Its population loss was also "hidden" by consolidation in 1968. Also like, Nashville, the zip codes closely follow the old 30 square mile city limits. Here's the population of "old Jax through the 1900's.
(1970-2000 "old city" numbers by JFDbytheSea)

1900 -- 28,000
1910 -- 57,699
1920 -- 91,558
1930 -- 129,549
1940 -- 173,065
1950 -- 204,517
1960 -- 201,030
1970 -- n/a (170,000 estimate)
1980 -- n/a (140,000 estimate)
1990 -- 119,172
2000 -- 112,851

As far as today's consolidated Jax, its 2002 population estimate:

765,350
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 1:11 AM
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I am quite amazed at the old density figure you found, Justin. Whoa. I'm with you, I'd love to see that again, but won't hold my breath. I don't see how that could ever happen, but we can wish.

I guess I'll have to remove the "old city limits" from my location. I was outside, not far, but outside the old limits. Egad. I've been a suburbanite all my life. That at least explains the new Walgreens.
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 1:18 AM
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Quote:
That gets me thinking. Did you do a decade by decade comparison to show which one had the worst decline?
I did, but my figures are at home. I have a wonderful evening class tonight... fun.

Quote:
I am quite amazed at the old density figure you found, Justin. Whoa. I'm with you, I'd love to see that again, but won't hold my breath. I don't see how that could ever happen, but we can wish.
I know. Can you imagine?

Quote:
I guess I'll have to remove the "old city limits" from my location. I was outside, not far, but outside the old limits. Egad. I've been a suburbanite all my life. That at least explains the new Walgreens.
I was going to mention it to you, but now that you have figured it out... I don't see the point
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 1:28 AM
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You can go the link below which, beginning in 1910, will give you the density figures for all urban places. It defines urban places for cities as within the incorporated area.

http://www.census.gov/population/www.../twps0027.html
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 4:29 AM
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Outstanding research Justin. Thanks.
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 1:22 PM
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Great way to do some research Justin.

Oh, I wish I had as much time on my hands, as you do!
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 2:15 PM
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I'm not too surprised about his research, or the quality of it. Now that he's explored the library to such depths, I expect more.

And don't forget Justin, the soup and other assorted goodies at the library's Provence cafe is really good.

Good job.
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Old Posted Feb 4, 2004, 3:14 PM
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Good work gumshoe.

Kinda sad...kinda pathetic...the current population density of Nashville's original city limits is STILL higher than most current sunbelt cities. lol
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Old Posted Feb 6, 2004, 5:57 AM
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lol... Perhaps. I have to compare them all.
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Old Posted Feb 6, 2004, 6:04 AM
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I'm not shocked at all. Is there an american city out there that has not followed this trend? How many cities that can claim they were major cities in the early 20th century still have the same density that they had back then? Any?

Most americans just don't want to live in cramped up cities anymore, bottom line.
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Old Posted Feb 6, 2004, 6:06 AM
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Conclusion: Justin has WAY too much time on his hands.



But seriously, I do find this pretty interesting. Thanks for the time you put into this, Justin!!! Libraries have sooo much info. It's a shame that A) most people don't know that and B) the ones here in PA lost a lot of funding in the budget this year, and are closing up and/or reducing hours of operation.
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Old Posted Feb 6, 2004, 6:10 AM
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Well, the main reason I did this was because that I have gotten into many arguments with people who have said that Nashville never lost ANYONE due to White flight or suburbanization. It did, but it was masked by consolidation...

That sucks, Dave
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Old Posted Feb 8, 2004, 7:18 PM
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Interesting find! I don't quite get the area, though. Census Bureau statistics show that Nashville had 29 square miles in 1960. Also, they show that it had only 22 square miles in 1940 and 1950, making its peak density 7,923 ppsm in 1950.

But if it's true that it has only 72,000 in 33 square miles today, that's a huge decline! Even 'old Jacksonville' didn't decline that much, and has a higher density today, although in the past decade it has lost over 6,000. Hopefully both cities will show a turn-around by the 2010 census.
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Old Posted Feb 8, 2004, 10:30 PM
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I have to add that White Flight isn't quite white flight. it's actually Money Flight, but it just so happens that in the united states, the majority of people with money are white. Trust me, minorities with money ALSO fled our cities over the past 50 years. It does appear to be a racial thing on paper, but IMO, this is more of a socioECONOMIC trend than a racial one.
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Old Posted Feb 9, 2004, 12:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DallasTexan
That sucks, Dave
I hate it. You can read about it here if you would like. :tdown:

I totally agree, Jamma.
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Old Posted Feb 29, 2004, 2:45 AM
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This doesn't surprise me one bit, but I am shocked at how few people live in the city proper... That number is extremely low. Virtually every Nashvillian really does live miles and miles from the actual city itself - so I am not going to question USA Today's ranking of Nashville as the number one sprawled city anymore.
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