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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cincinnati population growing, just barely

The United States Census released their population estimates for U.S. cities last week. The results are in and the results are decidedly undecided for Cincinnati. That's not bad though for a city in the Midwest that has been experiencing decline for several decades.

From 2000 to 2008 the U.S. Census reports that the City of Cincinnati experienced a 0.6% population gain. Some may say this is not a real gain as it is only reflective of successful challenges by the City of Cincinnati. In the end though it seems to indicate a stabilizing population within the core of the Cincinnati region that is growing at an annual rate of nearly 5 percent (source).

When compared with the rest of Ohio, Cincinnati and Columbus are the only two cities to post gains while the rest of Ohio's major cities saw significant declines - most notably Cleveland which has seen 9.2% of its population vanish since 2000.

Cincinnati ranks 6th in the Midwest behind Columbus (5.9%), Indianapolis (2.1%), St. Louis (1.8%), Chicago (1.5%) and Milwaukee (1.3%) with another seven Midwestern cities experiencing slower population growth or most likely population decline during the same span.

Click to open larger versions in new window

The population decline of many older American cities can be attributed to several things. Most common is the evidence of suburban sprawl and the exodus from the then polluted and overcrowded inner-cities.

The lesser of these examples that is covered is the changing American household. No longer can a neighborhood like Over-the-Rhine house 50,000 people like it once did. The market demands will not allow it as people look for walk-in closets, large bathrooms, offices, washer/dryer and the other modern amenities Americans hold dear. The result is that a fully occupied building in Over-the-Rhine that once housed 50 people may now only house 10.

This is the case for all older American cities that saw decline. Sure in part it was the exodus from the inner-city, but you can notice a difference in population changes between cities. Those that are experiencing minimal growth or minimal decline are those that I suspect are experiencing repopulating neighborhoods. Those with rapid decline are the cities that are struggling with this change and have still not managed to shake the decline that came at the benefit of the great American Dream.

As Cincinnati looks forward it must continue to build upon its strengths like its neighborhoods, culture and identity. At the same time we must realize where we stand. We are a old city, by American standards, and cannot expect to see the same population numbers we saw decades ago. Cincinnati also cannot expect to see growth like Columbus who has benefited from a liberal annexation policy there. Nor can we expect growth similar to the boomtowns of today that boast cheap land and labor that appeal to those kind of growth figures.

European cities have grown used to this stagnant population growth, but are still great cities. The Midwestern and East Coast cities in the U.S. must learn to do the same. What we should strive for is a stable population number and one that grows household incomes. Growing ourselves from the ground up is a great strategy Cincinnati can take, and one that will make the region stronger and healthier long-term with or without high growth rates.


Mark Kinne said...

Ah Cleveland... the new Detroit

Mark Miller said...

According to Mike Polk,
They're not Detroit...

Paul Wilham said...

I think if you look at Indianapolis you see what 'could' happen to Cincinnati if this city makes the effort. Indianapolis has gained over 40,000 people downtown over the last 10 years. Mostly due to new high end condo development and warehouse conversions but there is one thing interesting. There are only 2 empty unrestored residential structures downtown.

There is 1 vacant residential lot in Chatham arch for 240K! In the neighborhood we helped turn around near downtown a vacant lot will run you 30k, 10 years ago? 500.00! We went from a neighborhood where 40K for a house was the norm to where today is 250K and we have million dollar new construction infill.

All the downtown Urban Neighborhoods are essentially restored at this point.That has dramtically increased the city tax base.

That could be Cincinnati's future OR if they keep bulldozing everything? Detroit!

Unknown said...


It's 5% over 7 years, not 5% annual growth...More like .7% a year...

Dr. Alex said...

Great link to the USA today article. I like how it actually focused on just the City of Cincinnati, rather then always trying to include the metro area. Plus I didn't realize that Pittsburgh was actually smaller then Cincinnati (both in the 300K range).

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