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Toronto's Population Ranks High Up When Compared to Major U.S. Metropolitan Areas - Migration Patterns Key

By: Dr. Frank Clayton

April 12, 2016

Torontonians are well aware that the Toronto metropolitan area (Toronto) is big (6.1 million population) and growing rapidly (76,500 in the twelve months ending July 1, 2015)1. What they may not be aware of is the pre-eminent position that Toronto occupies in the hierarchy of metropolitan areas in Canada and United States (called North America here).

Toronto ranks sixth in total population

Toronto ranks as the sixth largest metropolitan area in North America in terms of total population with only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago being significantly larger. Toronto is now larger than many U.S metropolitan areas often held up as paragons for Toronto such as Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Toronto is sixth in latest population growth

In terms of its latest annual growth, Toronto is not far behind New York and Los Angeles (76,500 persons vs. 87,200 and 85,700, respectively) with their much larger population bases, but way ahead of Chicago where their metropolitan area population actually declined (by 6,300 persons). However, Toronto’s growth greatly lags the two Texas powerhouses – Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston – where annual growth was 144,700 and 159,100 persons, respectively, in the twelve months ending July 1, 2015.

Toronto’s growth highly dependent on immigration

What distinguishes Toronto from its American counterparts is its dependence on immigration as the key driver of population growth (see Chart 3). Its net immigration (immigrants less emigrants) of 66,700 in the latest twelve months available falls far short of New York’s 164,000 but just slightly less than the net immigration in Los Angeles and Miami. None of the other U.S. metropolitan areas’ net immigration is anywhere near this level, demonstrating the importance of it to Toronto’s growth.

Net internal migration not a growth driver for Toronto unlike the Texas powerhouses

Another key difference for Toronto is the fact that net internal migration (inflow from other parts of Canada less outflow) plays no role in Toronto’s population growth unlike in Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta. But unlike New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, Toronto is not experiencing a net outflow of internal migrants which is greater than the influx of net migrants.

Toronto and Chicago – no comparison

Even though Chicago’s population is more than 50% larger than Toronto’s, its net influx of international immigrants is less than half of Toronto’s. Even more startling is that Chicago recorded a net annual loss in its population of 80,200 people to other parts of the United States – Toronto’s net loss was just 25,500 for the latest twelve month period. The decline in Chicago’s overall population of 6,300 is in stark contrast to Toronto’s growth of 76,500 persons.

Data Sources:

Statistics Canada. Table 051-0056. Estimates of Population by Census Metropolitan Area, Sex and Age Group for July 1, Based on the Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) 2011. CANSIM (database). http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=0510056&&pattern=&stByVal=1&p1=1&p2=-1&tabMode=dataTable&csid= (accessed March 31, 2016).

Statistics Canada. Table 051-0057. Components of Population Growth by Census Metropolitan Area, Sex and Age Group for the Period From July 1 to June 30, Based on the Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) 2011. CANSIM (database). http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=0510057&&pattern=&stByVal=1&p1=1&p2=-1&tabMode=dataTable&csid= (accessed March 31, 2016).

United States Census Bureau. Population Estimates for Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistics Areas, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015. http://www.census.gov/popest/data/metro/totals/2015/index.html  (accessed March 31, 2016).

United States Census Bureau. Population Estimates for Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistics Areas, Estimates of the Components of Resident Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015. http://www.census.gov/popest/data/metro/totals/2015/index.html (accessed March 31, 2016). 

Notes:

In the U.S. there is a residual difference between the sum of the components of population growth (natural growth, net domestic migration, and net international migration) and total population growth in the twelve months ending July 1, 2015. The sizes of the residuals are as follows:

In Canada, the sum of the population growth estimate is the sum of the three above-mentioned components of population growth – there is not a residual difference.

(1) The Toronto census metropolitan area extends to Ajax on the east, Bradford-West Gwillimbury, New Tecumseth and Orangeville on the north and Milton and Oakville on the west.

Dr. Frank Clayton is Senior Research Fellow at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development.  

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