Economy

America's 10 Fastest Shrinking Cities

They are mostly old American manufacturing hubs that have lost their manufacturing employers. In a period of modest population growth, where many cities grew at a pace of over 10% between 2010 and 2019, these cities shrank by more than 6%.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s recently released “City and Town Population Totals: 2010–2019” report covers what the agency called “places” with populations over 50,000 in 2010. These essentially are cities, in layperson’s terms. The data covers the period from April 1, 2010, until July 1, 2019.

Only two of the cities that shrank had populations over 100,000. Several of the balance had populations closer to the 50,000 cutoff.

The fastest shrinking city was Charleston, the state capital of West Virginia. Its population fell 9.4% to 46,536 over the nine-year period. The city is the largest in the state and was in the center of what was once the thriving coal industry. Its population began to drop in 1970.

The second-fastest shrinking city for the period was Jackson, Mississippi. The population declined 7.4% to 160,628. It is the state’s capital and its largest city. After a period of rapid growth that began in 1930, it started to shrink rapidly in 1990. The economy of the city and area around it are dominated by manufacturing and agriculture.

The third-fastest shrinking city is Decatur, Illinois. Located in the center of the state, it had a population decline of 7.1% to 70,746. Caterpillar, once a pillar of American manufacturing, has its largest manufacturing facility there.

In fourth place, Shreveport, Louisiana, had a population fall off of 6.9% to 187,112. It was once a major hub of America’s largest oil companies. Its tourism business was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The fifth-fastest shrinking city was Albany, Georgia, where the population fell 6.9% to 72,130. One of its largest employers, Cooper Tire company, pulled out a decade ago.

Also on the list are manufacturing cities that were once the centers of the car industry. These include Flint and Saginaw in Michigan. Detroit was 11th among America’s fastest shrink cities, barely missing this list.

These are the 10 fastest shrinking cities in America:

City 4/1/2010 7/1/2019 Change Percent
Charleston, West Virginia 51,340 46,536 −4,804 −9.4
Jackson, Mississippi 173,551 160,628 −12,923 −7.4
Decatur, Illinois 76,131 70,746 −5,385 −7.1
Shreveport, Louisiana 200,976 187,112 −13,864 −6.9
Albany, Georgia 77,436 72,130 −5,306 −6.9
Gary, Indiana 80,256 74,879 −5,377 −6.7
Flint, Michigan 102,266 95,538 −6,728 −6.6
Hammond, Indiana 80,825 75,522 −5,303 −6.6
Rocky Mount, North Carolina 57,695 53,922 −3,773 −6.5
Saginaw, Michigan 51,469 48,115 −3,354 −6.5