Special Report

Cities Americans Are Abandoning

Detailed Findings

Not all the cities with the largest net declines in population from migration since 2010 are necessarily the fastest shrinking cities. However, among the U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest net population declines due to migration, the vast majority have had the largest overall decreases in population.

Two notable exceptions are New York and Los Angeles. While tens of thousands more people moved out of each city than moved in, both cities have still had among the highest net increases in population. This is because of natural population growth — hundreds of thousands more people in these cities have been born than died. Notably, Los Angeles had a net migration loss of 93,959, but the overall population increased by over three-quarters of a million people because of births.

Frey explained that movement from New York and Los Angeles to many of the cities with the largest net migration increases is due to residents of these cities getting pushed out because of rising populations and prices, the latter of which is a product of the economic recovery. “Now that things are picking up again, people are moving out of cities. As the housing market is coming back, people are being sucked out of pricey areas to where it is more affordable again.”

Frey gave the example of one common migration pattern: Los Angeles to Las Vegas, the latter of which had the 15th highest net population increase due to migration. Los Angeles has always lost residents to Las Vegas, but when the recession hit and housing prices fell, that movement slowed significantly.

Now that housing prices have recovered in Los Angeles and have become too expensive for many residents, people are once again moving out of the city in droves. As of 2016, Los Angeles had the seventh highest median home value of any metropolitan area, at $578,200. Las Vegas’ median home value is just slightly more than half that, at $233,700.

“The same sort of thing is true for a place like New York,” Frey added. “There has always been huge movement going from New York to Florida, but during the Great Recession period that slowed up quite a bit, and now it is picking up again.”

Frey added that the reasons behind the decline in population in cities like Los Angeles and New York — overcrowding and high prices — are very different than the reasons for decreases in other cities on this list, notably Rust Belt cities like Flint, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; and Rockford, Illinois; and even larger cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. These cities have been losing domestic migrants for decades due to stagnating economic conditions stemming from the decline of American manufacturing.


To identify America’s Fastest Declining Cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the annual estimates of resident population and the estimates of the components of residential population change from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017, provided by the American Community Survey. Population, and home value data also came from the 2016 American Community Survey.