For decades, Americans have chosen to live in suburbs rather than in cities. Suburban growth has outpaced urban growth, and many big cities have even lost population. But in recent years, some experts have said it’s time for cities to make a comeback. Why? Urban crime rates have fallen; many baby boomers want to live near restaurants, shops, and all the other good things that cities offer; and the housing bust has caused more people to rent instead of buy – sometimes by choice and sometimes out of necessity. Moreover, cities offer shorter commutes, a big draw given today’s higher gas prices and growing concerns about the environment.

So is there evidence that cities are really making a comeback? Earlier this year, a widely-reported Brookings analysis using 2011 Census estimates suggested that they were, reversing the long-term trend of faster suburban growth. However, it later became clear that those 2011 Census estimates should not be used for areas smaller than counties, which includes most cities and suburbs (see “the fine print” at the end of this post).