The Bronx—1.4 million strong, diverse, and growing. But America’s fastest growing city?
So concluded a recent report by the rental truck company U-Haul International, based on an analysis of truck turn-in at its nearly 15,000 locations in the United States. After not breaking into the top 25 growth cities for at least the last seven years, the Bronx shot to the top of the U-Haul National Migration Trend Report in 2009.
The Bronx, it would seem, is exploding.
At the 20 U-Haul locations in the Bronx, 17 percent more trucks were turned-in than checked-out in 2009, nearly doubling the rate of Houston, the next highest city, and dominating the rest of the list. “The economy is probably helping a little of that,” said Joanne Fried, a U-Haul spokesperson, “because it’s pretty affordable.”
Yet the report ran headlong into another large organization that tracks the nation’s demographic shifts: the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The Bronx was not on the top 100 fastest growing from ’08 to ’09,” said Tom Edwards, a spokesperson for the Census Bureau, referring to their annual report ranking the 100 fastest growing counties by population, which was released on Mar. 23. “Not only was it not on 2000-2009, it wasn’t on 2008-2009.”
Instead of trucks, the Census tracks people; they use birth and death certificates, Medicare enrollment (for the population over 65) and tax filings to estimate population changes annually in the 10 years between census counts. From this data, the bureau estimated that the Bronx grew last year, but migration trends are a different story.
From July 2008 to July 2009, 13,596 more people moved out than moved into the Bronx, according to the latest estimate. “That shows that the Bronx is not particularly a fast-growing place and, in addition, it’s actually losing population to other counties,” explained Katie Wingert, a Census Bureau demographer.
Over that same time, the borough landed a net gain of 8,462 immigrants, which is not reflected in the U-Haul report, according to Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College.
“The growth in the Bronx is immigrants,” Beveridge said. “They didn’t rent a truck from Mexico or Puerto Rico and drive up here,” he said.
“There’s no way the Bronx is going to be a high growth area,” he added. For that, you need new construction. “You can’t grow unless you have places to park people.”
The unusual conclusions of the U-Haul report may stem from the fact that Manhattan—population: 1.6 million—has three U-Haul locations, compared to the 20 the Bronx boasts.
“We just go by the drop off location,” Fried, the U-Haul spokesperson, acknowledged. “There’s no way for us to know what city they moved their goods to.”
But Fried added that despite the stark U-Haul imbalance between boroughs, the demographic shifts could be accurate. “Most of the time, we have enough locations that they’ll drop it off at the city they’re in,” he said, pointing out that the U-Haul Center in Chelsea is one of the nation’s busiest.
The U-Haul report, which began years ago as an internal tracker, aids the company in analyzing the movement of its fleet of 101,000 trucks. It compiles a list of every city with over 5,000 one-way truck rentals that year and then ranks them according to the ratio of trucks-in to trucks-out. The company used a similar report, in late 2005, to track the number of trucks driven out of New Orleans post-Katrina and route new vehicles to the stricken region. But as evidence of demographic changes, Beveridge said, the U-Haul claim falls short.
“It probably just reflects where people drop off the trailer or the truck,” he said.
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