Urban Institute: Mapping America’s Futures


Urban Institute: Mapping America's Futures - Test Different Scenarios to See the Effect on Population Changes

by Trends Staff

One thing we can likely all agree on halfway through the year 2020 is very little appears average. Population growth or contraction is estimated using a variety of predictable variables so from one year to the next, there are not a lot of surprises.  Over a decade, the increasing amount of time makes estimating population changes more difficult. 

The Urban Institute’s Mapping America’s Futures allows you to change a few variables to see how the overall population might be effected.

The map begins with average rates and All Ages and Races. More specifically, options include possible scenarios of Low, Average, or High rates for Births, Deaths, and Migration. Map filters include four age groups (0-19, 20-49, 50-64, and 65+) and All Ages, as well as by four race categories (White, Black, Hispanic, and Other).

Commuting Zones (CZ) are unique, often crossing county and even state boundaries. CZ’s were created to best reflect local economies regardless of traditional geographical borders. There are 740 unique CZ’s offered in this tool.

Select an area by clicking on the map. This zooms into the selected CZ or state. Scroll down below the map to see age and race detail, and further down to see a breakdown of 18 unique age groups by race. Changes occurring from 2000 to 2010 are actual while estimating each decade through 2030.

The Spokane Area CZ includes Spokane, Lincoln, and Pend Oreille counties in Washington State, and the majority of the Idaho Panhandle. Not to spoil everything this interactive has to offer, the Spokane Area CZ is projected to grow by 165,806 residents, or by 23.88% from 2010 to 2030.

While this tool was available before COVID-19, it can perhaps still inform by selecting Low for Births and Migration and High for deaths. However, we do not know what the final impact of the virus on the typical population changes occurring over a decade.

Yet, demographers write that due to the impact of COVID-19, U.S. birth estimates for 2021 and the foreseeable future, might see as many as one-half million fewer births annually. Ultimately, only time will provide answers to the overall impact, but the Mapping America’s Futures tool might provide us a sneak-peak more important now then when the Urban Institute released this tool a few years ago.

Bur the big question remains whether the larger (over 1 million) metro areas will change from typical growth to a decrease or if their mid-size counterparts, like the Spokane and Boise metros, will start  to see larger than predicted population growth.