While Seattle’s population growth is soaring, the opposite trend is under way in surrounding King County. Last year, the suburbs experienced their slowest population gains in more than a decade.
Well, suburbs, you had a good run. But it looks likes it’s finally come to an end.
For 100 long years, starting in 1910, the King County suburbs grew at a faster rate than Seattle. Even during the Boeing Bust era of the 1970s, when the city was losing population, the rest of the county maintained double-digit growth.
In 2016, Seattle notched its fifth consecutive year of faster growth than surrounding King County, according to my analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data. In total, Seattle’s population has increased by 15.4 percent since the start of the decade. The rest of the county? Just 8.9 percent. At this point, it clearly isn’t a fluke — it’s a trend.
Even more remarkable, perhaps, is that last year, Seattle didn’t just grow at a faster rate than the King County suburbs. The city also added more people in terms of raw numbers: 20,847 to 14,867. It’s the first time that’s happened since the U.S. Census Bureau began producing annual population estimates in 2000.
“Seattle lost population from the 1950s until the mid-1980s,” said Chandler Felt, the King County demographer, in an email. He points out that in the 1950s, Seattle’s population only grew because of annexation.
“During that time, the suburbs — everything in King County outside Seattle — grew pretty rapidly,” he said. “It was suburbanization, and it occurred all over the U.S.”
But starting around 1985, Seattle began to turn things around, gaining population for the first time in decades. Then, in 2011, the city modestly outpaced the county in rate of growth. At that time, many other big American cities also started growing faster than their suburbs, leading some demographers to declare it the “Decade of the…