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Fastest Shrinking U.S. Cities

Try to name the American cities which have lost the most residents since the year 2000.
By city proper population, 2000–2022
Hint: Think manufacturing + crime
Not including territories such as Puerto Rico
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: May 19, 2023
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First submittedMay 26, 2018
Times taken26,595
Average score45.5%
Rating4.47
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Loss
City
330,894
Detroit
230,977
Chicago
116,796
Cleveland
114,925
New Orleans
81,223
Baltimore
61,611
St. Louis
47,318
Toledo
45,910
Birmingham
Loss
City
45,089
Flint
38,261
Jackson
34,774
Gary
33,669
Milwaukee
31,665
Pittsburgh
30,235
Dayton
29,788
Santa Ana
Loss
City
29,044
Memphis
28,565
Akron
22,882
Youngstown
21,772
Cincinnati
19,992
Shreveport
18,322
Saginaw
16,162
Buffalo
75 Comments
+30
Level 85
May 27, 2018
So, what is it with Ohio??
+46
Level 84
Jun 1, 2018
Jokes aside, I would venture to guess it has more to do with people moving out of city limits and into the suburbs than moving out of the state all together.
+13
Level 54
Jul 25, 2018
I think there's a lot to that. Also the way cities are defined: My understanding is that Columbus draws the map to include suburbs, while Cleveland is just Cleveland proper. So the whole area is losing jobs, people move to the suburbs, the map (and tax base I assume) doesn't include suburbs, city loses more money plus more people etc.
+10
Level 75
May 27, 2023
Neoliberal policy, rendering capital footloose (and increasingly able to seek low wages, non-/anti-unionization, limited regulatory standards, etc.), and also including municipal tax policies allowing neighbourhoods to incorporate and contract expensive services rather than create them on their own. Add in the subsidization of suburbanization in a host of ways, not least the creation of freeways.
+11
Level 73
Jun 1, 2018
Everybody wants to move to Columbus, which is partially responsible for Columbus for being one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
+12
Level 89
Aug 17, 2018
If they just went there first, they wouldn't think it's worth committing life to it.
+17
Level 59
Aug 17, 2018
I'm a native Ohioan, born and raised an hour from Youngstown. The state, especially the eastern half, was built largely around the auto industry and steel mills. When Goodyear Tire left Akron in 1978 and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel filed bankruptcy in 1985 and again in 1990 (and never truly recovered), places like Akron, Youngstown, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo fell much in the way of Detroit, albeit less dramatically. Most of those cities are also ravaged by drug abuse, which raises their crime and poverty rates. This, of course, causes many to flee to other areas that are safer and more stable job-wise. Thankfully, Columbus is still thriving!
+2
Level 71
Jun 4, 2023
Agreed. Also a native Ohioan, an hour south of Cleveland. Sad to see so many Ohio cities on this list. We've lost some major employers in our city. Hoover (bought out by Maytag then dismantled/moved), Ford Motor Co (moved), and AEP (most of the local jobs went to Columbus in the '90s) are a few that come to mind. More employers are moving out of the cities to townships, where taxes are lower and there is space to expand business. Residents are following the trend out of the city - nicer housing, lower taxes,better schools, safer environment. There are big hopes and dreams in the NFL Hall of Fame Village project ... "If you build it, they will come" ... but the jury is still out as to whether tourism will be a real help or not. Many of us just don't see this city and all its problems as a major tourist hotspot. Having said that - Ohio is a beautiful state, with a lot of good things to attract people.
+21
Level ∞
May 27, 2020
People want to believe "Detroit is falling apart, but the suburbs are strong". Sadly, this isn't true. Far more people are leaving the state than are moving in. Globalization has absolutely gutted the Midwest.
+5
Level 55
Mar 18, 2021
As a Michigander by residence, i can confirm this too. Even some of the most notable suburbs, Like Flint, Warren or Dearborn are shrinking.
+3
Level 69
Oct 19, 2022
"Globalization"?? Seems like an interesting thing to pin this on.
+12
Level 81
Dec 20, 2022
Actually, I think it makes perfect sense. Without globalization, the United States would still rely on internal manufacturing in order to supply most of the country, but with the shift towards importing manufactured goods, the Midwest has faced significant decay as they have lost their main economic source. It’s cheaper to import international goods than to make them at home where we have minimum wages and manufacturing regulations.
+2
Level 63
Apr 13, 2023
for ohio at least, downtown dayton and cincinnati seem like terrible places to live, but a lot of the suburbs are actually quite nice
+2
Level ∞
May 19, 2023
Arguably, the Midwest suburbs and small cities have some of the best quality of life in the United States.

Houses are very affordable, crime is low, and people are nice. I grew up in that environment, and I can tell you that it's probably a better place to raise a family than my current residence (Seattle).

But there is not much economic opportunity either.

+3
Level 71
May 27, 2023
Just wondering QM (if you don't mind sharing), why do you live in Seattle? Most of the comments on this quiz suggest you aren't particularly happy there.
+3
Level 73
Aug 17, 2020
In can only speak about southwest Ohio, but from 2000 to 2010 the greater Cincinnati area population increased by over 100,000 people. While people moved from the city proper during that time period, the outlying suburbs grew and continue to grow.
+2
Level ∞
May 28, 2022
Hamilton County has a lower population today than in 1960.
+1
Level 74
May 31, 2022
You should check this out. It seems like the suburbs that are further out are more favorable. For example, from what I've heard by word of mouth, places such as Liberty Township and Mason are the "nice" places to live. Both of these are outside Hamilton County.

This still doesn't explain the total population decrease in Ohio. My guess is that a lot of Ohioans are moving to the suburbs from the city and from smaller surrounding cities, while a lot of people are also leaving those cities for other states.

+1
Level 73
Jun 14, 2018
Got them all but Youngstown, which I really should have remembered, and Toledo.

Interesting how Gary is still shrinking so much, I was just there and it's already so hollowed out. Such an interesting, historic city.

+8
Level 40
Aug 17, 2018
What in the world is happening with Ohio? Maybe it has to do with the opioid situation. They are dying, not leaving.
+3
Level 82
Aug 17, 2018
There were 3600 opioid deaths in Ohio in 2016, and many of these were by people who don't live in major cities.
+5
Level 82
Aug 18, 2020
if not clear, my point was that this is a very insignificant factor.
+2
Level 67
Aug 19, 2020
Right? I keep seeing people asking these questions like they've never heard of the "Rust Belt." I guess the auto industry decline over the last several decades was not big enough historical news? I mean, that's what I used to start basing my answers.
+1
Level 52
Mar 22, 2024
Too skibidi
+5
Level 70
Aug 17, 2018
All but 4 of the 18 cities lost less than 40,000 people over 17 years. No city likes negative growth but that's hardly a mass exodus. That said, New Orleans was completely devastated by a natural disaster which explains a lot of their population loss. Manufacturing jobs being lost or moved internationally probably explains quite a bit of the rest.
+7
Level 89
Jun 26, 2019
And several of those cities are under 100,000 people. Many have halved since the 1950s. Youngstown has lost 2/3 of it's population. St. Louis 856,000 in 1950 and soon to be in the 200s.
+1
Level 70
Aug 17, 2018
It would have been good to include the populations being counted as a city. Saginaw seldom makes these lists because it is too small, so I didn't even consider it.
+1
Level 82
Aug 17, 2018
If this was by urban area and not city proper I think the entire quiz might only be 2 or 3 entries long.
+9
Level 47
Aug 20, 2018
Pick your random Blue city....
+24
Level 74
Aug 17, 2020
Every city is a blue city. Especially the ones that are growing quickly.
+7
Level 89
Apr 30, 2022
The bluer the city the more people get shot. Funny how that works.
+11
Level 61
May 31, 2022
How bias works? Yeah that's funny.
+11
Level 89
Jul 5, 2021
San Francisco? Seattle? Denver? Austin?
+3
Level 75
Mar 1, 2023
Is there a red city?
+7
Level ∞
May 27, 2020
Prediction: By 2030, Chicago will be atop this list by a wide margin (and New York will possibly make an appearance as well). The combination of bad weather, high prices, congestion, and outrageous taxes makes the situation in those places untenable. Bankruptcy is on the horizon for Chicago/Illinois unless they get a bailout from the feds. Just please don't all move to Seattle. We're full.
+2
Level 62
May 28, 2020
Lots of Chicagoans, especially African Americans, are going to Atlanta. Apparently retirees are going to Southwest Florida.
+4
Level 85
May 28, 2020
It's sort of cruel twist that a lot of the outrageous taxes are to pay for the pensions and health care of former state employees who have retired and moved to Florida and Arizona. So all those taxes are leaving Illinois and subsidizing those Florida and Arizona's economies.
+7
Level ∞
Nov 19, 2020
I had this great idea a few years ago. States should apply state income tax to pensions before they give them out. This would penalize the freeloaders who flee to another state. Turns out, this has been tried, and the courts ruled it illegal.
+6
Level ∞
Nov 19, 2020
My other idea is kind of wicked. States should only mail pension checks to people who live in the state and pay taxes. Others would have to pick up the checks in person. Wahahahaha...

But seriously, Illinois is screwed.

+2
Level 55
Aug 24, 2020
Seattle is now a cesspool and no go zone that looks like Mad Max in the CHAZ zones. I don't know how much longer you will want to stay there, especially if you value independent liberty, free speech, low taxes, etc. Best of luck...
+4
Level ∞
Nov 19, 2020
You're half right. Seattle is a cesspool. But it's certainly not a no-go zone. Its still one of the safer cities in the U.S. in terms of murder rate.
+3
Level 59
Oct 8, 2020
Im moving to Chicago in 2025
+1
Level 44
Jun 3, 2022
Doubt NY will ever make this list. When you have a city that is so interconnected with the world, has great public transportation (one of the few in the country), pays good salaries, and has tons housing available outside of manhattan, it would be implausible to make that sort of prediction.
+4
Level 89
Jun 2, 2020
Hint: Think manufacturing + crime + Pine Bluff.
+2
Level 63
Aug 17, 2020
It's cruel that once, thriving, cities became a graveyard of houses. Especially Detroit, since they used to have 1.85 million people living there. Now, only about a little over 600,000 people live there.
+2
Level 71
Aug 17, 2020
Just curious, is this a measure of just loss, or net loss? I'm guessing either way it doesn't make much of a difference since most of these places aren't drawing a lot of new residents, but still would be nice to know.
+3
Level ∞
May 29, 2022
Net loss
+1
Level 65
Aug 17, 2020
As with many of these, going by city proper only doesn't give you an accurate picture of the health of a metropolitan area. For example, Detroit's city proper encompasses most of the metropolitan area, where St. Louis' city proper encompasses only a small fraction of the entire metropolitan area. If looking at crime statistics alone, you get an inaccurate picture of St. Louis. The metro area is far larger than the city proper. Yes people are moving out of the city, but then again the city only has about 300,000 people. The entire metro area has more then 3,000,000 people.
+3
Level 78
Aug 18, 2020
Detroit's population (670k) encompasses only ˜16% of the whole metro area (4.3M), far from "most of the metropolitan area".
+1
Level 51
Aug 22, 2020
More like, Hint: Think garbage weather for half of the year. That's the real commonality here.
+1
Level 75
Jun 18, 2023
Lots of other cities with the same weather do not have the same problem.
+6
Level 55
Aug 24, 2020
NAFTA, high taxes, no gun rights, people who hate free speech and individual liberties, etc. I don't know why anyone would live in NY or California at this point.
+4
Level 61
May 31, 2022
You answered your own question. Decent taxes hopefully leads to social security , gun regulation, fighting spreading hate speech and misinformation, all good things. Unlike you I DO understand why people with different political views wouldn't want to live there, just as how I would never want to live in a deep red state.
+3
Level 93
Sep 24, 2022
Lots of things wrong with that. Higher state taxes don't somehow increase social security for starters. Twelve states tax some/all of your social security and politically they're split 50-50 red-blue. Also, having political figures with an agenda deciding what counts as "misinformation/hate speech" is not a good idea, also strict gun regulations have absolutely failed to stop crime in big cities like Chicago, NYC or Detroit.
+1
Level 45
Oct 5, 2021
Michigan as a whole has a stagnant population. Cities like Detroit and Flint had population booms in the early 1900's due to big companies like Ford and General Motors. When those companies closed their big factories, people had to move to other cities to find work. This left many neighborhoods in Detroit to look like ghost towns. With a few exceptions (Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo areas...) the state is deteriorating. Most of the midwestern states have similar stories.
+2
Level ∞
May 29, 2022
Yes. It's a simple and obvious recipe for failure.

Step 1. Open factories

Step 2. Import vast numbers of low skilled workers for factories

Step 3. Close factories

+4
Level 71
May 29, 2022
Surprised no Texas cities are on here. With the rising crime rates and the state getting hotter and hotter each year due to global warming, I’d think many people would flee from the state.
+3
Level 93
May 29, 2022
We’ve lived in AZ for 8 years and the stretches of days over 100 degrees has gotten longer and longer. Maybe everyone will move back to Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin when the climate there becomes warmer.
+3
Level ∞
Jun 1, 2022
Quite the opposite. Texas has many of the fastest growing cities.
+1
Level 75
Jun 18, 2023
Give it time.
+2
Level 74
May 31, 2022
Interesting that San Jose dropped off the 1 M cities list, but didn't make an appearance on here.
+3
Level ∞
Jun 1, 2022
They grew before they shrank.
+1
Level 65
Jun 1, 2022
Most people leaving Cleveland are just going to the suburbs, they can’t build houses fast enough. There’s developments popping up all over the far west side. Not sure about the rest of Ohio.
+1
Level ∞
Jun 1, 2022
Cleveland metro area peaked in 1970 and has declined by more than 10% since:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Cleveland

+1
Level 74
Jun 1, 2022
As a matter of fact, if you take a look at the final table in that page under demographics, you can see how the population has grown the last 10 years and that the population has shifted quite heavily towards surrounding counties. Interesting.

This obviously doesn't mean the same applies since 1970, but the trend definitely holds over the last ten years.

+3
Level 82
Jun 1, 2022
Just so you know, Baltimore's state is listed as Baltimore in the Answer Stats. Might want to switch that to Maryland
+2
Level ∞
Jun 1, 2022
Fixed
+5
Level 88
Jun 25, 2022
Birmingham is a little surprising but Santa Ana is the true head scratcher. Orange County is generally doing quite well and grew about 18% from 2000 to 2020. One theory out there is that 21st Century gentrification of Santa Ana reduced downtown population densities, thereby reducing overall population. I did not know that Orange County could gentrify but ok ....
+3
Level ∞
May 19, 2023
Yeah, I don't know what happened with Santa Ana. Maybe they redefined their urban boundary or something. It's the clear outlier on this list.
+1
Level 81
May 27, 2023
This. There's no way in a million years I would have ever guessed Santa Ana for this list.
+4
Level 59
Feb 15, 2023
Several cities in Puerto Rico should be included. Based on Census data from 2000 to 2020, Bayamon lost 38,857 residents, Carolina 31,261, Toa Baja 18,842, Mayaguez 25,357, and Ponce, 48,984, all of which are more than Saginaw, the current lowest city listed here. Given that all of these cities are decreasing in population, the numbers for 2021 to match up with the quiz would likely be slightly higher than the ones I have listed. These cities should be included, as Puerto Rico is experiencing the most significant population loss of anywhere in the United States, and arbitrarily excluding it because it is a territory doesn't make much sense.
+1
Level ∞
May 19, 2023
Added a caveat
+2
Level 74
May 27, 2023
To everyone who tries to make this a political point: Nigeria has a rapid population growth rate, while Japan's population is shrinking. Does this mean Nigeria is better run, freer and wealthier than Japan?
+3
Level 66
May 27, 2023
? I think the top 5 cities by homicide rate in the US are St Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, and Memphis.
+3
Level 75
Jun 18, 2023
You're right that the cheap shots about American politics amount to nothing more than rhetoric. However, your counter-example is woefully falacious. Those basic facts may be true, but they utterly fail to account for the immense differences in culture and underlying circumstances between Japan, Nigeria and, for that matter, the US. There are innumerable variables that explain population trends in those places that have nothing to do with the reasons the cities on this list have shrunk.