Special Report

America's Fastest Shrinking Cities

Source: Thinkstock

15. Flint, MI
> Population change (2011-2016): -3.12%
> Total population: 408,615
> Per capita income: $36,612
> Unemployment rate: 5.7%

Flint, Michigan has been in the national spotlight several times since the 1980s for a number of reasons — none of them good. A prototypical Rust Belt city, Flint’s economy suffered a serious blow when General Motors downsized industrial operations in the area over three decades ago. More recently, the city’s water supply was found to be heavily contaminated with lead. Today, Flint’s unemployment rate, violent crime rate, and poverty rate are all higher than corresponding national figures. Such conditions have likely driven many away from the area, as Flint’s population has declined by 3.1% in the last five years.

Source: Thinkstock

14. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA
> Population change (2011-2016): -3.15%
> Total population: 544,746
> Per capita income: $38,454
> Unemployment rate: 6.1%

The population of the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman metro area declined 3.1% between 2011 and 2016, even as nationwide the population grew 3.7%. Like many shrinking cities, the Youngstown area once had a flourishing manufacturing industry. Since the collapse of the U.S. steel industry in the 1970s, however, the city has lost more than half of its population and nearly all of the area’s industrial activity. An estimated 6.1% of the Youngstown metro area workforce is currently unemployed, one of the highest unemployment rates nationwide.

Source: duggar11 / Flickr

13. Lawton, OK
> Population change (2011-2016): -3.16%
> Total population: 128,077
> Per capita income: $38,246
> Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Unlike most shrinking cities, Lawton’s natural population growth — births minus deaths — was one of the largest in the nation over the last five years. Natural population growth contributed contributed 3.4 percentage points to the overall population change, versus negative or stagnant natural population growth in the vast majority of cities on this list. The massive out-migration since 2011 more than offset the natural growth, however.

As is generally the case in areas reporting such high population loss, Lawton residents are not especially wealthy. The metro area’s annual per capita income of $38,246 is well below national income levels of $48,131.

Source: Thinkstock

12. Saginaw, MI
> Population change (2011-2016): -3.28%
> Total population: 192,326
> Per capita income: $35,429
> Unemployment rate: 5.2%

Like many old industrial towns in the Midwest, Saginaw’s 3.3% population loss over the last five years is part of a much longer trend. Due in part to foreign-owned car companies producing more cars in the United States, Saginaw’s automobile industry, has declined significantly from its heyday over the course of the 20th century.

Saginaw’s violent crime rate, which at 605 incidents reported per 100,000 people is among the highest of U.S. metro areas, may also help explain the city’s declining population.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

11. Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH
> Population change (2011-2016): -3.29%
> Total population: 119,271
> Per capita income: $36,529
> Unemployment rate: 7%

The Weirton-Steubenville metro area’s economy is hurting — and likely driving many people away. Some 7.0% of the metro area’s labor force is out of a job, well above the 4.7% national unemployment rate.

Population decline can result in reduced demand for housing, which helps explain low property values. In Weirton-Steubenville, property values are near rock bottom. The typical area home is worth only $88,000, the sixth lowest median home value of any U.S. metro area.

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