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  #1  
Old Posted Sep 3, 2013, 9:24 PM
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Midwest by high density

I went through the New York Times' 2010 Census map, trying to find all of the population living in census tracts in the Midwest over 10,000 people per square mile. The outlier is not surprising, but number two might be.

The top eleven metros:
Chicago - 2,584,931
Milwaukee - 252,711
Minneapolis-St. Paul -183,441
Cleveland - 98,090
Detroit - 70,371 (not counting Windsor)
St. Louis - 64,143
Columbus - 38,613
Madison - 36,029
Cincinnati - 34,703
Ann Arbor: 23,663
Champaign-Urbana: 23,331

The full list:
Illinois:
Champaign-Urbana: 23,331 (UI campus, including a 49,162 ppsm tract)
Chicago area: 2,584,931 (2,138,426 in city of Chicago)
DeKalb: 6,016 (Northern IL campus)
Normal: 7,036 (IL State campus)

Indiana:
Bloomington: 11,555 (IU campus)
Lafayette: 15,128 (Purdue campus in West Lafayette)

Iowa:
Iowa City: 14,985 (UI campus)

Kansas:
Lawrence: 7,637 (UK campus)
Manhattan: 2,642 (KSU campus)

Michigan:
Ann Arbor: 23,663 (UM campus)
Detroit: 70,371 (53,999 in Detroit, 14,272 in Hamtramck, 2,100 in Southfield)
Grand Rapids: 3,187 (south of downtown along 131, and several other tracts just shy)
Lansing: 17,028 (MSU campus in East Lansing)

Minnesota:
Duluth: 4,239 (just east of downtown)
Minneapolis-St. Paul: 183,441 (141,639 in Minneapolis, 37,304 in St. Paul, 4,498 in Brooklyn Park)

Missouri:
Columbia: 6,753 (UM campus)
Kansas City: 2,998 (Crown Plaza)
Springfield: 4,580 (MSU campus)
St. Louis: 64,143 (15,055 Central West End, 49,088 on South Side)

Nebraska:
Lincoln: 16,628 (UN campus)
Omaha: 2,859 (west of downtown, several others just under 10,000 ppsm)

Ohio:
Akron - 1,448 (U of Akron campus)
Athens - 9,956 (OU campus)
Cincinnati - 34,703 (23,992 in the Over-the-Rhine area, 10,711 in Covington, KY)
Cleveland - 98,090 (63,312 in Cleveland, 27,087 in Lakewood, 6,052 in Euclid, 1,639 in East Cleveland)
Columbus - 38,613 (OSU campus)
Dayton - 3,481 (south of downtown)
Kent - 7,117 (Kent State campus)
Oxford - 5,265 (Miami campus)

Wisconsin:
Madison: 36,029 (the isthmus)
Milwaukee: 252,711 (240,688 in Milwaukee, 7,487 in West Allis, 4,536 in Cudahy)
Sheboygan - 2,912 (northwest of downtown)

For Indianapolis, the closest census tract is the east half of downtown within the I-65 loop, at 8,099 ppsm.

The total population in the Midwest in tracts over 10,000 people per square mile is 3,548,869, of which 72.5% lives in the Chicago metro area.

Bonus: Kentucky
Lexington: 4,904 (heart of UK campus)
Louisville: 6,570 (a small cluster just south of downtown less than 11,000 ppsm)
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Last edited by ChiSoxRox; Sep 5, 2013 at 11:43 PM. Reason: add Champaign-Urbana to top list, since it's all but tied with AA
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  #2  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 3:49 AM
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^ impressive work, that must have taken a boatload of time.

chicago is obviously in its own league here, and milwaukee impresses once again, but I'm finding it a bit hard to believe that indy doesn't have any tracts over 10,000ppsm
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  #3  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 4:15 AM
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Chicago is the only one that took a long time; Milwaukee took me about an hour with Python as a calculator. The grid system helps to organize the tract sweeps. Milwaukee and the others I did basically straight through but for Chicago I had a more elaborate system:

1. Do the outlying suburbs first (the big clusters being Aurora and Arlington Heights).

2. Since the census tracts align neatly with Chicago's city limits except for O'Hare, do the collar ring suburbs, city by city to avoid duplication. Also, add in the one O'Hare community area tract that qualifies.

3. Now, for Chicago since the majority of the city is over the 10,000 ppsm cutoff, I did a different strategy: peel the city into mile wide strips, first being below 119th Street, then 111th to 119th, and so on, working my way north. Then, I counted the population under the threshold (which added to 557,172). This I subtracted from the city population to get the population over 10k ppsm. (Being careful to follow the city lines; Norridge and Harwood Heights were tricky).

4. Add the city and suburb figures together.

Indy is the big surprise; if you check out the source, there are only two tracts over 8,000 ppsm in the entire metro! Fargo has a denser tract than Indianapolis. Central Indianapolis has seen very sharp depopulation that is masked by the massive city limits; the central township in its county has seen its population go from 337,211 in 1950 to 142,787 today (no boundary change). Likewise I suspect that Detroit was once the second place city on this list.
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Last edited by ChiSoxRox; Sep 4, 2013 at 3:46 PM. Reason: Norridge note
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  #4  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 11:14 AM
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Ann Arbor is almost exactly even with Cincinnati? Wow.
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  #5  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 12:32 PM
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College towns, of course, are going to be pretty prominent on a list like this, particularly ones with large dormitory systems. In most of these places, the type of housing and site plans that yield these kinds of density aren't particularly urban in their set-up and layout as compared to cities with similar (or even loweer) population densities.

Obvious, Ann Arbor packs in the students in its inner-city, but outside of the immediate inner-city, Ann Arbor is about as typical as similar Midwestern cities as you can get in its layout. If you ask me, just from ancedotal observation, I've found that the street grids/layouts in places like neighboring Flint, Grand Rapids and even Lansing are tighter and give off a significantly bigger, more urban feel than Ann Arbor, which can feel really windy and village-like outside the immediate core.
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  #6  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 2:17 PM
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I'd like to go through the 1950 Census or a similar year, and see if the data is complete enough to assemble this list for back then; I'd suspect that then this list would be closer to the total population ranking. By population in tracts over 5,000 people per square mile, here's selected cities in Michigan besides Detroit:

Grand Rapids - 102,374 (largest clump at ~7,500 ppsm just east of downtown)
Ann Arbor - 52,588
Lansing - 50,594 (26,228 in Lansing proper, densest tract at 7,111 ppsm just north of downtown)
Flint - 17,577 (densest tract at 6,261 ppsm; Flint could be off this list entirely in 2020)
Ypsilanti - 13,946 (EMU)
Saginaw - 13,067
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  #7  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 3:02 PM
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Surprised, but also not surprised to see Milwaukee ranking high on a list like this again. Milwaukee has probably the healthiest central core growth in the Midwest outside of Chicago and maybe Minneapolis right now. Driving through the city is really impressive with blocks of 3-4 story brand new apartment buildings in several different neighborhoods. East side, River West, Third Ward, Fifth Ward are all booming.

Hell even the Menominee Valley is picking up steam. The 20-some story casino hotel tower is nearly topped out as of my drive through the city on the way up north for labor day. But, as I said, it's not even the highrise growth in Milwaukee that is impressive, it is the relentless chugging developments that are gnawing away at block after block of vacant or disused land in Milwaukee. It seems like the growth didn't slow even for a second during the recession and the city is now poised to boom once things really pick up again.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 3:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LMich View Post
College towns, of course, are going to be pretty prominent on a list like this, particularly ones with large dormitory systems. In most of these places, the type of housing and site plans that yield these kinds of density aren't particularly urban in their set-up and layout as compared to cities with similar (or even lower) population densities.
a good point. residential density numbers can serve very generally as a mostly useful proxy for urbanism, but the phenomenon of warehousing students in very high density dorms on college campuses is one instance where the correlation can encounter problems.

as uaarkson pointed out, cincinnati and ann arbor have almost the same number of people living in 10,000+ ppsm census tracts, yet as someone who has been to both places several times, i can say without any hesitation that cincy undoubtedly feels like the bigger, more urban city of the two because it actually is. this one density stat skews things both favorably for ann arbor (high density university dorms) and unfavorably for cincy (the lower density valleys and steep hillsides make it harder to maintain consistently high density across a wide area) to the point where one could make the mistake that both are roughly equal in urbanism if they knew nothing else about the two places.


all that said, cincinnati's low number was a little surprising to me given how it's the oldest major midwest city. i would have expected it to be at least more in the st. louis range on this metric, but i guess those steep hillsides and valleys all over the place really do break up the housing density. regardless, a low showing on this list doesn't negate the fact that cincy is the most uniquely urban city in the midwest. is there anything like mt. adams anywhere else in the midwest?
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  #9  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 4:06 PM
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Also cities like Cincy that have had sharp depopulation in the central city will slide far down this list. Keep in mind Cincinnati as a city has lost almost half its 1950 population, and that will tend to be even higher in the densest, central city districts. I would consider this list not so much a measure of "urbanness" but a measure of how well a city has retained its density (plus the student filing cabinets). I'd consider the second most urban city in Illinois to be either Rockford or Peoria, and neither makes this list.

My personal guess for this list right after World War II would go Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, then Milwaukee.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 4:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
a good point. residential density numbers can serve very generally as a mostly useful proxy for urbanism, but the phenomenon of warehousing students in very high density dorms on college campuses is one instance where the correlation can encounter problems.
I was under the impression that students in dorm housing do not count towards the census population because it is not the primary residence and they do not typically live in a dorm year round. Is that not correct?
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 4:29 PM
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I was under the impression that students in dorm housing do not count towards the census population because it is not the primary residence and they do not typically live in a dorm year round. Is that not correct?
I may be wrong, but I believe it's wherever the student lists him/herself on the Census. Without some of the dorm population, you can't achieve the 30 or 40,000 ppsm figures for some of these college tracts.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 5:56 PM
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What a great list. Thank you for spending the time putting this together. It's interesting to see the comparisons.
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  #13  
Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 6:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiSoxRox View Post
I may be wrong, but I believe it's wherever the student lists him/herself on the Census. Without some of the dorm population, you can't achieve the 30 or 40,000 ppsm figures for some of these college tracts.
This also varies heavily depending on the college town. Madison is a pseudo college town (if not an outright college town, I have a hard time calling it a college town since it is also a state capital and has several major businesses like Epic) and I have a feeling very few of those tracts showing up in Madison have much to do with dorms. According to US News, 76% of University of Wisconsin students live "off-campus" which means a lot of that high density is just those endless rows of dilapidated frame apartment buildings with 4 students living in each apartment that dominate Madison. That is also amplified by the fact that Madison is highly geographically restricted meaning a lot of the non-student housing stock is high density to make good use of the limited supply of land (and poor accessibility for automobiles) that defines the city.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 6:46 PM
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For Iowa City, there are three census tracts over 10,000 ppsm. One is all dorms north of the Old Capitol, but two more are full of larger houses and apartment rows stuffed with students.

Also, turns out the first go around I neglected to check Cincinnati's suburbs across the river in Kentucky. I've added that 10,711 figure to Cincy, although not to the Midwestern total.

For comparison, Seattle has a population of 239,944 in these census tracts (198,676 in the city, 12,854 in Tacoma, 28,414 in the suburbs).
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Last edited by ChiSoxRox; Sep 4, 2013 at 7:07 PM.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 7:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiSoxRox View Post
For comparison, Seattle has a population of 239,944 in these census tracts (198,676 in the city, 12,854 in Tacoma, 28,414 in the suburbs).
say what? milwaukee has more people living in high density census tracts than seattle? now that's something i never would have guessed.

milwaukee really does punch FAR above its weight class in the residential density game.

thanks again for compiling all of this very interesting info.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 8:09 PM
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I'm not surprised about Milwaukee beating Seattle. We're historically a bungalow city. Infill has changed this, but much of that is a relatively small percentage of the city. So our peak tracts boom but most of the others grow slowly.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2013, 8:26 PM
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The fun part is that Seattle has a higher overall population density than Milwaukee in the city limits (7,402 ppsm versus 6,188). Seattle has huge swaths of the city in the 8,000 to 10,000 ppsm range, while Milwaukee has a sharper fall off to the sparse fringes. The northwestern most ten square miles or so of the city of Milwaukee are under 3,000 ppsm for the most part, including at least five square miles under 1,500 ppsm, yanking down the city's overall density.
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2013, 1:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
a good point. residential density numbers can serve very generally as a mostly useful proxy for urbanism, but the phenomenon of warehousing students in very high density dorms on college campuses is one instance where the correlation can encounter problems.

as uaarkson pointed out, cincinnati and ann arbor have almost the same number of people living in 10,000+ ppsm census tracts, yet as someone who has been to both places several times, i can say without any hesitation that cincy undoubtedly feels like the bigger, more urban city of the two because it actually is. this one density stat skews things both favorably for ann arbor (high density university dorms) and unfavorably for cincy (the lower density valleys and steep hillsides make it harder to maintain consistently high density across a wide area) to the point where one could make the mistake that both are roughly equal in urbanism if they knew nothing else about the two places.


all that said, cincinnati's low number was a little surprising to me given how it's the oldest major midwest city. i would have expected it to be at least more in the st. louis range on this metric, but i guess those steep hillsides and valleys all over the place really do break up the housing density. regardless, a low showing on this list doesn't negate the fact that cincy is the most uniquely urban city in the midwest. is there anything like mt. adams anywhere else in the midwest?
Also, keep in mind that Cincinnati's central core depopulated HEAVILY versus the more 'healthy' parts of the city early on (talking 1930's) that surround what is known as "the Basin." For example, OTR probably has less population density than, say, Northside, Mt. Lookout, or Clifton neighborhoods due to it depopulating + yuppies replacing poorer families.
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Old Posted Sep 5, 2013, 8:43 PM
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There's an easier way of doing this. If you use American Factfinder, you can download a list of Census Tracts in each state along with their population and land area. For example, Michigan has 36 Census Tracts with densities above 10,000. The total population of those tracts is 125,926.

There's one in Chippewa County covering the Hiawatha Correctional Facility. Total: 2,222 in 0.14 sq. mi.

There's one in Gratiot County covering the St. Louis Correctional Facility. Total: 2,416 in 0.22 sq. mi.

There are seven in Ingham County covering the Michigan State University area. Total: 20,891 in 0.94 sq. mi.

There's one in Kent County covering a mostly residential bungalow neighborhood. Total: 3,187 in 0.31 sq. mi.

There's one in Oakland County covering a small section of Royal Oak TWP that had been annexed by the city of Oak Park that is primarily post-war suburban-style apartment complexes. Total: 2,100 in 0.14 sq. mi.

There are five in Washtenaw County covering the University of Michigan area. Total: 23,663 in 1.67 sq. mi.

There are twenty in Wayne County covering various areas. Total: 71,447 in 5.94 sq. mi.

What's interesting is that back in 2000 Northeast Detroit had nearly 100,000 people in a contiguous area where the density was over 10,000 ppsm. Today most of those tracts are below 10,000 ppsm. For example, there are 70 more Census Tracts in Wayne County with densities above 7,500 ppsm. The population of those Census Tracts is 231,888. Many of those tracts were above 10,000 ppsm back in 2000.
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  #20  
Old Posted Sep 5, 2013, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by hudkina View Post
There's an easier way of doing this. If you use American Factfinder, you can download a list of Census Tracts in each state along with their population and land area.
Found the files. Toying around with them now.

Using Illinois:

Total population in census tracts over 100,000: 2,611,337

Champaign County: 23,331 (U of Illinois campus)

Cook County: 2,508,272

DeKalb County: 6,016 (Northern Illinois)

Kane County: 46,949 (mostly Aurora, some in Elgin)

Lake County: 15,837 (mostly Waukegan)

McLean County: 7,036 (Illinois State)

Will County: 3,896 (Joliet)
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Last edited by ChiSoxRox; Sep 5, 2013 at 11:00 PM.
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