3.2 Urban population dynamics
Between 1990 and 2000, total population of the American West region increased from 52,786,082 to 63,197,932, which is 19.7% increment and it was the fastest among all four regions in the country (Perry and Mackun 2001). It is also a reflection of the population growth trend continued in the post-World War II period characterized by rapid growth of several Southwestern metropolitan cities. These “magnet” cities have been a popular destination for those looking to tap into burgeoning economic opportunities in the region as well as for those seeking to retire in a place with better “quality of life” and amenities—warmer climate, year round sunshine, and wilderness (Frey 2003, Duncombe et al. 2003). This trend is a sharp contrast to previous “boom” periods in the region that were large driven by “frontier lands” for mining and agriculture; the modern population explosion is mostly fueled by federal aids (e.g., for water control and regulation, highways, military bases), low state and local income tax, growing labor and housing market, amenities-driven growth, and an extraordinary pro-growth booster spirit (Travis 2007, Abott 1981, Glaeser and Tobio 2007). In this section we focus on government employment and regional migration, associated with industrial opportunities and amenity-driven migration emerging in the Sunbelt over the last half century.
The population growth ratio and population density have increased in all sites, except in KNZ (refer to Table 1) and the most of these sites share several factors contributing to population growth in the region. There are, however, some differences in the nature and magnitude of the population change and their impacts on the way urbanization has occurred in each site. CAP, SEV, and SGS experienced exponential population growth during the study period that has affected the development and fragmentation patters leading to high rank for impact level. JRN experienced moderate population growth, while KNZ experienced a decline in growth leading to a low impact ranking.
Government employment opportunities, especially military, has played and continues to play an important role in the local economy of three of the sites: CAP, KNZ, and SEV. Establishment of fairly large military bases and universities in and around these Sunbelt cities created thousands of jobs and even to this date these bases and universities continue to serve as the largest job provider in many of these cities. Thus, any major changes in military bases—an increment, closure, realignment or so on—in these bases have had huge impacts on the local demography as well.
In CAP, the explosive growth of Phoenix area accelerated with the establishment of four air force and one navy training centers in smaller cities around Phoenix: Luke Field and Thunderbird Field near Glendale, Williams Field near Chandler, Falcon Field near Mesa, and Navy training center at Litchfield Park. These...