The nation's big cities are riding out the first years of the post-downturn era with plenty of company - boosting their population via a youth movement.
Census Bureau data released Thursday show that 48 of the 50 most populous U.S. cities have grown since 2010, compared with only 40 of the top 50 in the first two years after the 2000 Census. Of the top 100, 93 have grown since 2010, compared with just 72 a decade ago.
Many of the biggest - New York, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and Dallas, among others - are outpacing the nation's 1.7% growth rate since 2010.
"Urban America is recovering faster than more remote, more rural places," said Robert Lang, a professor of urban affairs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Lang said urban areas appeal to Millennials (those born from about 1982 to 2001) "in part because they haven't seen cities in crisis. They missed the riots of the 1960s, the urban decline of the 1970s and the crack epidemic of the 1980s. "If you're a kid born in 1993 or 1992 and you're in college now, you're looking around the country thinking about where you want to move ... you've seen fairly ... tranquil cities, in relative terms to what their history was."
Only two big cities - Detroit and Cleveland - lost population between 2010 and 2012, according to the population estimates from July 1, 2012.
The urban resurgence is led by mid-sized cities including Austin and Fort Worth and Charlotte. Austin grew 6.6% in two years, leapfrogging Jacksonville, Indianapolis and San Francisco to become the USA's 11th-largest city. In 2000, it was No. 17.
• New York City, by far the USA's most populous city, grew 2%, adding about 161,500 residents since 2010. Since 2000, about 328,000 more people have called themselves New Yorkers, a group bigger than the entire population of St. Louis;
•New Orleans continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, growing 7.4% since 2010 to top 369,000 - more than 80% of its pre-Katrina population but shy of its Census 2000 population of 485,000.
• Government budget crunches have put state capitals in a bind: Nine have shrunk since 2010; half are lagging the growth rate of their regions.
Perhaps the biggest exception to the capital crunch is Austin, which has grown more than 26% since 2000. Brookings Institution demographer William Frey says Austin enjoys a "trifecta" of qualities that make it attractive: It's hip, it's a high-tech city with a flagship state university, and it's in Texas, a magnet for newcomers. "In some ways it's a prototype of what other cities would like to become," he says.
"Our city is strong, getting stronger every day," says Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. "Our growth and economic success are not accidental."
Frey notes that Charlotte, which grew 5.4% since 2010 has grown into a high-tech and financial center whose industries do business not just with those in other U.S. cities but with the rest of the world.
Many cities actually grew faster in 2012 than in 2011, even as the housing crisis eased and city dwellers had a chance to move to the suburbs, Frey says. Those who were forced to stay put during the recession because of troubled mortgages or job losses may be "taking a second look" at cities.
Also a new generation of young urbanites may be less willing to move to the suburbs, even as their kids enter school. "I think the jury is still out a little bit as to whether that's going to ease up when the housing market gets better," Frey said. As the recession recedes further, he said, "they may follow in the footsteps of many generations before them out to the suburbs."
But Kenneth M. Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute, says that as young city dwellers enter their 30s and 40s, a shortage of high-quality public schools could be "a deal breaker."
"It's going to take a little bit more than a couple of years of growth for the cities to convince me that there's some generational change going on," he said. "Maybe this generation is more attracted to the cities than the last two or three generations have been. I think it's too early to tell."