Special Report

This Is the Fastest Shrinking City in America

The U.S. Census Bureau recognizes 384 metropolitan areas, based on its population cutoff. Among the reasons the data on metropolitan areas is useful is that 86% of the American population live in these cities. In aggregate, the population of U.S. metro areas grew by 9% between 2010 and 2020.

Not all cities are growing, however. To identify the fastest shrinking cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the change in resident population in all 384 metropolitan statistical areas from 2010 to 2020. The fastest shrinking city was far from the average growth for all metros. The population of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, dropped from 100,258 in 2010 to 86,278 in 2020 — a 14% decline.

In some of the recently released results from the 2020 census, one section was titled, “Around Four-Fifths of All U.S. Metro Areas Grew Between 2010 and 2020.” This means that about 75 metros shrank in population. The data also showed that the entire U.S. population grew at the slowest rate since the 1930s and that there is a wide contrast between the population growth rates among metropolitan areas, with some cities reporting negative growth. 

Many other cities on the list are old industrial metros where economic conditions have been challenging for decades. This included Elmira, New York, where the population dropped 7% to 82,622, and Youngstown, Ohio, where the population dropped 6% to 531,420. See if they are among the metro with the highest poverty rate in every state.

Many of the fastest shrinking cities are in West Virginia, including four of the top 10. The population of Charlestown, the third-fastest shrinking city, dropped 9% to 254,145 between 2010 and 2020. The fifth-fastest shrinking city was Beckley, where the population declined 8% to 114,982. In the sixth fastest shrinking city, Weirton, the population shrank 7% to 115,184. And in the seventh-fastest shrinking city, Wheeling, the population also dropped 7% to 137,217. Some of these are among the cities with the most people on food stamps.

Other data used such as population figures, educational attainment rates, median household income, and the population with health insurance also come from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey one-year estimates. 

Click here to see the fastest shrinking city in America.