Special Report

America's Fastest Shrinking Cities

Samuel Stebbins

Source: Acroterion / Wikimedia Commons

10. Cumberland, MD-WV
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -5.1% (-5,230)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.0%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -1.4% (-503)
> Median household income: $42,169

Cumberland is one of only 10 metro areas to report a more than 5% population decline over the last eight years. Natural population change — the number of births less the number of deaths — and outward migration each contributed substantially to the decline.

Areas with struggling economies are less attractive to those looking to start families and potential new residents — and economic conditions are less than ideal in the Cumberland metro area. The area’s unemployment rate of 6.0% is well above the 3.9% national rate, and there are over 500 fewer jobs in the area today than there were eight years ago. And many of the jobs do not offer especially high paying. The typical household in the metro area earns just $42,169 a year, well below the national median of $57,652.

Source: Jayu from Harrisburg, PA, U.S.A. / Wikimedia Commons

9. Elmira, NY
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -5.2% (-4,644)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.5%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -6.4% (-2,424)
> Median household income: $51,251

After losing a net of 4,644 residents, Elmira’s population is 5.2% smaller now than it was in 2010. The population decline was the largest of any New York metro area and ninth largest nationwide. The decline was precipitated entirely by people leaving the metro area.

One of the most common reasons Americans decide to move is for jobs and career opportunities, and those are relatively scarce in the metro area. As of 2018, there were 2,424 fewer jobs in Elmira than there were in 2010. The area’s unemployment rate of 4.5% is well above the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

Source: 8308527@N02 / Flickr

8. Wheeling, WV-OH
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -5.3% (-7,862)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.3%
> 2010-2018 employment change: +0.4% (+238)
> Median household income: $45,625

Due to both more deaths than births and rapid outward migration, the population of Wheeling, West Virginia, declined by 5.3% over the last eight years.

Wheeling is one of four metro areas primarily located in West Virginia to report near nation-leading population decline between 2010 and 2018. Partially as a result, along with Connecticut and Illinois, West Virginia is one of only three states with fewer residents now than in 2010. Of those three states, West Virginia lost the largest share of its population at 2.6%.

Source: J. Pinta (Redline2200) / Wikimedia Commons

7. Decatur, IL
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -5.5% (-6,072)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.2%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -1.2% (-584)
> Median household income: $49,052

Decatur is one of two metro areas in Illinois to report a greater than 5% population decline between 2010 and 2018. Though there were more births than deaths in the metro area between 2010 and 2018, the number of people moving out was more than enough to fully offset and more the natural population growth.

Migration out of Decatur is part of a broader trend across the state as a whole. Over half a million more people moved out of Illinois than moved in between 2010 and 2018, and as a result, Illinois is one of only three states with a smaller population now than eight years ago.

Source: Jon Dawson / Flickr

6. Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH
> 2010-2018 pop. change: -5.8% (-7,260)
> 2018 unemployment: 6.5%
> 2010-2018 employment change: -8.4% (-3,453)
> Median household income: $44,576

The population of Weirton-Steubenville declined by 5.8% between 2010 and 2018. Though about 2,600 more people moved out of the metro area than moved in over the last eight years, the bulk of the population decline is attributable to a greater number of deaths than births. The metro area has a far older than typical population. More than one in every five Weirton-Steubenville residents are 65 or older, well above the 14.9% share of Americans.