U.S. population growth slowed to just 0.6% in 2018 — the lowest growth rate in 80 years. The last time the annual population growth was this low, the nation was in the throes of the Great Depression, when job opportunities were limited and there was little optimism about the future.
While the national population growth just hit a historic low, there are towns and cities across the country where even a small 0.6% population bump would be a welcome change. In these places, population decline has been a defining demographic trend for years.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed population changes between 2010 and 2017 in nearly 15,000 cities, towns, villages, and Census designated places to identify the fastest shrinking place in every state. We only considered areas with populations of at least 1,000. To ensure accuracy, we did not consider places where the margin of error for population was greater than 10%. All data are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
National population growth is slowing primarily because the country’s population is aging. This also appears to be a factor in many of the cities and towns on this list.
In the fastest shrinking town in 38 states, the median age exceeds the national median of 37.8 years. Similarly, in the vast majority of places on this list, the share of residents 65 and older is greater than the comparable share statewide. While these places tend to have large shares of retirement-age residents, they are not necessarily the places with the oldest populations in their state. These are the oldest counties in every state.
Just like during the Great Depression, when population growth slowed nationwide, in many of these areas, economic conditions are lagging. In the majority of cities and towns on this list, the median household income is lower than it is across their respective state as a whole. This is in stark contrast to the fastest growing place in every state — which tend to be relatively affluent areas.