Paris fact of the day

The number of people living in the Paris departement, or administrative area, dropped by an average of 11,900 people a year between 2011 and 2016, the most recent figures available, according to the national statistics agency. Paris’s urbanism institute, Apur, forecasts that the decline of the inner city population will continue for about another six years.

It is a sharp contrast with the urban renaissance that has taken place in many of the world’s major cities over the past 20 years, but Paris is not alone.

New York City shed a net 39,500 people in 2018 and 37,700 the year before, reversing the previous upward trend.

In London, the population is still growing, bolstered by births and international immigration; but when it comes to internal migration, the net movement of people out of the UK city totalled more than 100,000 in the year to June 2018.

That is from Judith Evans in the FT on shrinking cities.


Not the case for Toronto...massive construction downtown in the CBD...expanding population and the businesses that service it... new restaurants, shops...etc...

Well, where else is there in Canada to migrate to? ;-)

Cant blame them for leaving. These big European capitals have become tourist theme parks with the accompanying hordes of visitors. I used to think the big cities like Paris and Rome could withstand this and still feel like a regular city, unlike Florence or Venice, but I'm not sure anymore. Cheap airfares and Airbnb for better or worse have killed a lot of the unique, local atmosphere these cities once had.

I am afraid the unwelcome newcomers in european large cities are not tourists.

Oh, sure they are. With 40 millions tourists a year (for 2 millions residents), tourism is by far the biggest cause of Paris's changes.
That being said, Paris is still an incredible city, most of it untouched by tourists, and if people are leaving, it is for many not by choice but because real estate prices are skyrocketing, due to a very NIMBY attitude, and the demand by rich people from around the world (and the Brexit, or the perspective of it, does not help).

'it is for many not by choice but because real estate prices are skyrocketing'

Well, I was just talking to a Parisian this morning about the TGV (which is hilarious to take from Karlsruhe to Stuttgart in terms of the rail route/speed), and she mentioned that many French people outside of Paris now hate the TGV.

The reason is that considering how fast it is, it has now become realistic for Parisians to buy property far outside of Paris, and still commute to work/own a weekend house. She specifically mentioned Bordeaux, saying that currently, property prices in Bourdeaux are now even higher than Paris. Purely anecdotal, but surprisingly on topic.

At this point, true high speed rail makes anywhere with a stop within 300 or so kilometers of a major city a commuter town, at least for the (very?) well off.

Oddly, there was always a (smallish) group of people who commuted between DC and NYC, but they used to fly. Not sure how that looks these days, to be honest - air travel takes a lot more time than it used to in the U.S.

Starting some 20 years ago, I heard more and more complaints from longtime Parisian friends that whereas it used to be safe to send your kids to almost any school in Paris the change in the demographics had become such that once they reached school age, parents had to decide between private/Catholic school or moving to an expensive but safe arrondissement. This was exactly what they lamented about the US in the 1980s. By the late 1990s, they were just like many big US urban areas.

"Good school districts" is a global phenomenon.

At some point we'll admit it it's the student, not the infinite exogenous factors the education bureaucracy can dream up, and this stupid, destructive experiment will be over. But probably not before it all burns down.

wiki, I agree. But the (still small) flight from public schools in poor or medium districts to private schools or public schools in rich/good districts is occurring in all of France, not especially in Paris. If anything, Paris' still very good public schools are attracting people from the suburbs, and this phenomenon can't explain the stagnation of the population of Paris.

This would be, more generally, what I would answer to Bigot above and John below: they are right that immigration have put pressures on many aspect of the French system and forced people to make hard choices, but Paris has been relatively protected as compared to the rest of France, and thus this can't explain the stagnation of the population is Paris -- which is due, as has been said here, to the fact that we don't build much, if anything, in Paris, and that Paris is becoming more attractive globally, thus attracts richer people, who wants more space.

What internal migration there is doesn't help; young post-uni types migrating down to London treat the place as basically a theme park anyway, for their 10-15 years they stay. I can't imagine its too different in Paris.

The article says it is due to high house prices, but according to the graph in the article NY house prices are about the same in real terms as in 2003. I note the data presented is from the Census, perhaps this is more an artefact about people responding to Census data requests than actual population fall?

Yes, but have real incomes kept pace, when age held constant? MR had a post on that they might suggest that the constant real housing prices you mention would still represent a relative price increase to many.

However, I fear Bigot, above, might have the more correct answer for many of the cities.

Why did cities see a revival after decades of decline? The crime that was driving people away abated for many reasons; better policing, demographic change, political change. The cities were full of cheap locations that years of decline had engendered. The economy was changing and the city offered high end service sector jobs in finance and others, the growing globalized markets where cities were hubs.

So cheap housing and growing opportunities and little crime.

City housing is expensive, dramatically so. The opportunities that can pay for that expense are limited.
Crime is not rising, but the precursors are.

The globalized service sector produces jobs where location is not important. As long as you are connected, you have to travel in any case. So being in a city hub isn't as important, especially if you are established.

I live in a small town which is attracting city dwellers. The quality of life is far better, a long commute is 20 minutes drive along a lake shore that is stunning. An excellent ski hill is 20 minutes from the town center, you can drink out of the lake, and likely you will have deer and bears and possibly cougars in your back yard.

When cities underwent revival, you could buy an older place and fix it up. Now you need multiple levels of complex environmental surveys and abatements of everything from lead paint to silica. The costs of doing anything are extremely high. The cities have collected bureaucrats who excel at being expensive barriers to doing anything at all.

And it seems that the economies outside of the coastal cities are doing reasonably well.

No surprise. Lots of anecdotal bits of information have indicated that it is happening. About the same scale as post 9/11 when people wanted to be away from target areas.

It is a sharp contrast with the urban renaissance that has taken place in many of the world’s major cities over the past 20 years

Which of the world's major cities have had significant population growth in the core city (not the suburbs or overall metro area) during the past 20 years?

As a Frenchman, I am ashamed by how our Presidenr is meddling in Brazil's interna, affairs instead of taking care of the matters thst matter the most for us, Frenchmen. I think it is the influence of his wife.

Hi Thiago!

Surely you mean Bonjour, Thiago?

I do not know what you all are talking about. I am Monsieur Boucher.

The Brazilian with a 1,000 names.

... and he's not even Brazilian.

I disagree ... it is the influence of his girlfriend...

I am not sure. I have heard he is bitter because the Brazilian First Lady is very beautiful, and his wife is not.

Yes... I too heard the first lady got a brazilian, but his wife did not. But I heard this from the girlfriend, and she cannot be trusted...

As a Moldovan, it is appalling how our President is completely ignoring Brazil's offer of increased friendship and military coordinayion. Brazil is the leading emerging superpower and Moldova should be embrsing this opportunity.

As a Frenchman and I believer in Latin unity, I think Moldova has much to profit from Brazil's wise leadership.

You are cuck. All of you.

With economic growth, incomes are higher. Higher incomes mean lower population density as people can pay more for transportation and spacious housing. Lower population density means smaller populations living in the geographical area designated as "city" and more people living in the "metro area". If the metro area were shrinking than it would be weird. Now it just feels like business as usual.

To me the real question is not why this is happening in 2019, but why it did not start earlier and happen more quickly.

As many have noted, in theory modern technology allows more people to collaborate remotely. This means that both individuals and companies should be able to relocate wherever they wish, and yet still be able to collaborate with colleagues, clients, etc. that are thousands of miles away. In practice, until recently the opposite seemed to be happening, at least here in the United States.

The non-sperg answer is that most humans actually prefer to be around other humans, and to conduct business with them face to face. People want/need to live where the action is, and that's other people.

Maybe because for many years post 2008 people couldn't sell their homes without a loss. The opposite is true now in many cities; you can sell your home, come out with a nice bit of cash and buy something where it is cheaper.

This is a misleading comparison. The Paris department covers only the areas inside the périphérique ring road (2.2 million people or roughly 18% of the urban agglomeration). The corresponding areas in New York and London would be Manhattan and zones 1-2 of the tube, respectively. The population figure for the Île-de-France region is more meaningful for the urban agglomeration. At this level, Paris has been growing slightly less than the New York MSA and more strongly than Greater London in my years (albeit still less than the French average).

But when extolling the supposed 'urban renaissance' nobody was referring to overall growth of the surrounding suburbs/metro area.

I agree, but much of the area outside of the administrative boundaries of Paris are not suburbs in any meaningful sense even though they are often called suburbs. The petite couronne (the inner ring of neighbourhoods outside of Paris) has a population of five million at an average density of 8000/km2. This density is higher than anything in the US outside of Manhattan. The area is growing considerably and much of it is gentrifying.

The fact that the population of Paris is declining is not surprising if you consider that it is virtually impossible to build (much of Paris is a historic preservation area), while at the same time household sizes are declining.

So I do not think it is a story about the end of the urban renaissance. It is about rich couples without children moving into the most desirable parts of the city.

Building height restrictions were relaxed in 2010, aimed mainly at the 13th arrondissement, in southeast Paris, where apartment buildings as tall as 150 feet and office buildings up to 590 feet will now be allowed. Anyone who has been to Paris can appreciate the beauty of a city without highrises. But it has come at a price: high rents. Will Paris be Paris with a bunch of highrises? While many cities in America experienced a flight to the suburbs and slums in the inner city, in Paris the slums have been in the suburbs. Not surprisingly, most of the immigrants reside in the suburbs (Greater Paris).

Weird article. Anyone who works with cities knows that generally as wealth increases population decreases, which is 95% family sizes and 5% increasing dwelling sizes.

Quoting a person who says that people are leaving because prices are going up is a real "nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded. moment, and I typically expect better of FT.

There's no contradiction. The very rich often buy up properties but don't live there full time or simply leave them intentionally empty. If it's not someone's permanent address it won't show up in the population statistics.

It's more than that -- the buyers of these properties may actually live in them most of the time, but they rarely raise families there, so the number of people per unit of living space declines even though all the units are occupied.

"It is a sharp contrast with the urban renaissance that has taken place in many of the world’s major cities over the past 20 years"
This is not correct. Paris city did see an increase of its population in the last 20 years from 2,125,000 in 1999 to 2,190,000. I don't think it makes sense to take conclusions from a 0.3% decrease in 5 years. It doesn't either for the comparision to London a city which is 15 times larger and 4 times less dense (considering the official city limits)

"I don't think it makes sense to take conclusions from a 0.3% decrease in 5 years. "

That's too small a change to draw much of a conclusion. Perhaps, you could say that Paris hasn't been growing. But even then for a large city, you probably need a decade to see a real trend.

The rent is too damn high.

Investors, often from overseas, are buying up property in cities and then leaving it uninhabited.

Millennials are getting old enough to have their own families, and they're moving to places more conducive to raising small children. Since they themselves are the children of boomers, they are numerous enough to affect the statistics.

"The number of people living in the Paris departement ... dropped by an average of 11,900 people a year between 2011 and 2016" How do they know?

"the net movement of people out of [London] totalled more than 100,000 in the year to June 2018" How do they know?

“They” post somebody at the gate who counts the people coming and going.

The city revival we experienced was just a bump into a long declining trend.

I grew up in Paris prior to the time when neighborhoods were gentrifying. The basic issue is that even “lower-quality” neighborhoods like the 13th have become unaffordable. The trade off between the suburb and downtown is increasingly in favor of the suburb: a nice suburb (car-based life) at a lower price yet without the hype and prestige of inner city living. That is the choice made by even some of my most successful classmates, except if they have inherited property downtown. Living in Boulogne, St Cloud, Vincennes, Sceaux is not as expensive and yet these locations are well connected by train to downtown. Remember “Paris” itself is a very small area. The metro area is more relevant.

If you read the article it says that part of the reason is Airbnb rentals which does not get counted in residential numbers.

In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city - except for bombing. Assar Lindbeck.

These economists didn't forsee Airbnb.

My own City has few liberals and even less rent control yet the nicer parts are becoming mostly AirBnb neighborhoods.

My theory is that it doesn't take that many $150/night nights to make up a full time renter's monthly rent and while full time renters resent or ignore the landlord, Airbnb users post comments about how happy they were to spend all that money.

How to model the good feeling premium, idk.

Yes exactly. I live in the south of France and that is what is happening here. Apartments are being converted to Airbnb and longtime residents are leaving because of quality of life issues related to mass tourism (prices, noise, crowds etc)

Funny how nobody wants to mention 'White Flight', people generally like to be around people like they are. When places change populations rapidly, those who ancestors created the city often move on. Paris is surrounded by non french ancestry populations and the city itself has changed culturally over the recent decades. London has grown but the English people are leaving it rapidly. The elites who are generally unaffected by population replacement don't see or understand this, they have more restaurants and cheap housekeepers and they're happy. Those who no longer recognise the place where they grew up, move on.
The great replacement continues.

“But GDP is up 0.1%” shouted the cuck libertarians!

The natural state of cities is population decline. Up until the 19th century every major city had more deaths than births for all of its existence. Cities historically grew only through immigration and even with the sanitation revolution, far more growth came from migration than natural growth.

Historically people moved to cities for jobs and opportunities. Those who could afford transportation, like the nobility typically resided further from the city core (e.g. villas, Versailles). Once the cost of moving out of the city core dropped drastically the only way to keep the core growing was to import impoverished individuals without the social ties and opportunities to push outward.

Nowadays people tend to move as far away from the city as they can manage while still being within commuting distance of work. Only a small minority actually want to live in cities and even smaller amounts actively want to live in the dense metropolitan cores.

If it were not for legacy opportunities (e.g. media concentration in LA, finance in NYC and London, tech in SF, and government in Paris and London), I suspect most cities would be going much more the way of Chicago. Either you import a bunch of people willing to dump ever more money into rent, or you watch the population migrate away.

The real question is not why so few people move to or stay in cities, it is why anyone aside from the rich do so.

Cities are for young adults, suburbs are for families. This isn't very controversial.

The population of the city of Chicago has increased about 40,000 in the last decade.

The population today is similar to what it was in 1990, about 1 million below the peak in the 1950s.

I don't think your explanation hangs together.

Don't mistake this for a decrease in demand.

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