By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog
This morning, the Census Bureau released its July 1, 2011, population estimates for incorporated citiesand towns.
As far as Ohio is concerned, the bureau’s related news release tells us that Columbus, with a population of more than 797,000, remains the nation’s 15th largest city. The detailed data reveals that the city gained almost 9,000 residents during the previous 12 months. That’s more than the population gain of just under 7,000 (from 11.537 million to 11.544 million) seen in the entire Buckeye State during the same period. In other words, the rest of the state lost people.
Population losses that have been taking place in Ohio’s other major cities for the past half-century mostly continued, while ex-urban cities and counties have mostly seen gains. Cleveland, with 393,806 residents, lost 2,360 people, and came in with almost 3,000 fewer than it had in the official April 1, 2010, decennial census. The most recent result is 55 percent below the city’s 1960 population of 876,000. If there’s another major city in the U.S. besides Detroit that has seen a greater population loss in percentage terms, I can’t think of it.
Though their losses were much smaller, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Akron also saw their populations decline. Since 1960, Cincinnati, which had over a half-million residents at the time, and Akron, which had 290,000, have seen their respective populations shrink by 41 percent and 31 percent. The Glass City has lost 26 percent of its population since 1970. Each of the counties in which these cities are seated also lost people. Meanwhile, the ring counties of Cincinnati (Butler, Warren, and Clermont) all showed population gains. From a statewide political and electoral standpoint, southwestern Ohio’s influence continues to grow, while northeastern Ohio’s is waning.
As I noted in 2009:
“Ohioans have been leaving the state’s large cities for four reasons, only one of which — the natural human desire for open space — is arguably not their fault. The causes the cities have failed to deal with, and which have been within their control, are high crime, lousy schools, and high taxes. For decades, their governments have been asking, ‘Where else can they go?’ Hundreds of thousands have answered with their feet.”
Nothing much changed during the next two years. Sadly, voters last November rejected public-sector employee reforms that would likely have helped Ohio’s declining cities reverse their slide.
The Census Bureau’s counts are a year old, so it will be interesting to see what kind of changes will be in the next estimate. That update will be for the 12 months ending July 1, 2012, won’t be released for another year, and will cover a time during which the state has experienced a decent recovery from the four previous horrid years. My prediction is that Columbus will show continued growth thanks to public-sector and university employment, Ohio’s other major cities will stabilize at best, and ex-urban area growth will persist.