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"The sting of this experience may very well put the damper on the long-held view among young families and new immigrants that building a home in the outer suburbs is a quick way to achieve the American dream," said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed the census data.
Over the past decade, the number of poor people living in the suburbs of major metro areas grew 53 percent, compared with 23 percent in cities. Suburbs were also home to roughly one-third of the nation's poor population, outranking cities and rural areas.
The latest census data come amid an overall U.S. growth rate in 2011 of 0.9 percent, the lowest since the mid-1940s, due to fewer births and less immigration following the recent recession.
Fewer people are also moving around within the nation's borders — just 11.6 percent of the nation's population moved to a new home, the lowest since the government began tracking such information in 1948. That means fewer Americans are migrating to residential hot spots in the suburbs or Sun Belt metro areas such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Atlanta, upending several of the population trends of the 2000s.
Metro areas showing renewed growth or slower losses last year included Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle and Detroit, where steep population drops in the downturn have largely bottomed out.
_Rural counties just beyond the edge of metropolitan areas saw growth drop sharply last year, hurt by the slowing of outward sprawl. From 2010-2011, these counties increased by 30,000 people on average, compared with annual growth of 174,000 in the 2000-2010 period, according to Kenneth Johnson, sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire.
As a whole, nonmetropolitan areas last year grew 0.1 percent, compared with 0.9 percent for large metro areas and 0.6 percent for small metropolitan areas.
_Charlton, Ga., led the nation last year as the fastest-growing county, followed by St. Bernard Parish, La., both increasing more than 10 percent. That is in contrast to the 2010 census, when St. Bernard Parish ranked last in percentage growth, due primarily to the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
_Texas had four of the nation's fastest-growing large metropolitan areas: Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
_Los Angeles was the most populous county, with 9.9 million residents.
The census estimates used local records of births and deaths, Internal Revenue Service records of people moving within the United States and census statistics on immigrants. The estimates were for both counties and metropolitan areas, which include cities and surrounding suburbs.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.