These 30 Cities Are Shrinking–Find Out Why

Cities across the United States are hemorrhaging residents, losing up to ten percent of their population in the last decade. Why are people packing up and leaving these cities in droves?

Young woman packs up her belongings
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For many, they are simply priced out–their salaries unable to keep up with the metropolitan cost of living. In some places, such as cities in the Rust Belt, the cornerstone manufacturing industries have died out. And in some cases, high crime rates and crumbling infrastructure have former residents searching for a safer place to call home.

El Paso, Texas

El Paso, TX
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In the last decade, El Paso has lost almost 22,000 residents to migration. That’s huge! Although the city itself is reportedly quite safe, it shares a border with a crime-ridden region of Mexico. Add in a 20% unemployment rate and scorching temperatures, and it makes sense that so many people are leaving.

Fayetteville, North Carolina

Fayetteville, NC
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Although some parts of North Carolina are booming, such as the so-called Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, Fayetteville has seen more than 8,700 residents migrate in the last ten years. High unemployment and poverty rates doubtlessly play a role.

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, OH
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We have it on good authority that Cleveland rocks, so why have more than 33,000 residents migrated from the Ohio city? In a word: poverty. The poverty rate in the city is over 36%, with more than 18% living in what is considered “abject poverty.”

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Johnstown, PA
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Johnston, Pennsylvania, lost a staggering 7.2% of its population, with almost 3,000 residents fleeing the city in 2012 alone. The city was the site of multiple severe floods throughout history.

Rochester, New York

Rochester, NY
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Rochester, like other cities in the Rust Belt, has seen its fortunes–and its population–fall over the last decades. The city lost about .4% of its residents in the last year alone.

Fresno, California

Fresno, CA
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Fresno, California, has a crippling substance abuse problem that has given the small city a bad reputation. It’s no wonder that the population has shrunk by more than 7,500 in the last decade.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Pine Bluff, AR
Arkansas Times

At a glance, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, seems to be a dying city. More than 9% of its population fled the area between 2010 and 2017. That might be because it is the second-most dangerous city in America, just behind Detroit.

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, NY
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Buffalo saw a population decline of .6% last year, mostly due to a miserable unemployment rate. However, a new factory to make solar components for Tesla and Panasonic might breathe new life into the Rust Belt city.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, IL
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Despite the number of people leaving other cities to try their luck in Chicago, the city has seen almost 300,000 residents migrate. Weirdly enough, Redfin discovered that many of them are leaving the Windy City for Phoenix, Arizona.

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, MD
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Baltimore lost 1.1% of its population last year alone, putting it at the lowest point in a hundred years. Crime rate is a major factor, as well as limited job opportunities.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, WI
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You might not associate “staggeringly high crime rate” and “Wisconsin,” but any resident of Milwaukee could tell you that you’re wrong. The city has the sixth-highest crime rate in the United States. In fact, just under 28,000 residents have fled the city in recent years–many of them heading to Chicago.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, LA
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More than 18,000 residents have migrated from Baton Rouge in the last ten years. The city faces major unemployment and soaring crime rates, leading many people to look for a safer and more prosperous place to live.

Syracuse, New York

Syracuse, NY
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Who wouldn’t want to live in such a beautiful city? More than 17,700 people, according to research. Homes are cheap in Syracuse, and unemployment is low. The main factor in Syracuse’s population drop seems to be the weather, with harsh winters making people eager to leave.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, MI
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There are multiple reasons why Detroit has been losing residents. The city is about a third of the size it once was at its heyday in the 1950s, thanks mostly to the collapse of the auto industry. But the main reason residents are leaving the city is because it has the highest crime rate in the United States.

Charleston, West Virginia

Charleston, WV
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Charleston, West Virginia, lost 5.5% of its population between 2010-2017–almost 10,000 residents. The state capital and most populous city in West Virginia has suffered as the coal industry faltered. The city also had more deaths than births during the last ten years.

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, MO
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St. Louis has lost almost 40,000 residents in the last decade, with people leaving the city behind for Chicago and other nearby metropolitan hubs with lower crime rates.

Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, TN
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Although it has an incredible musical legacy and a vibrant culture, Memphis, Tennessee, is not a place people want to live. The city has lost 30,000 residents in the last ten years. That might have something to do with the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.

Flint, Michigan

Flint, MI
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We can all guess why Flint, Michigan lost over 4% of its population in the last decade. The water crisis in the Michigan city has still not been resolved. It’s likely that Flint will continue losing residents as property values plummet and businesses leave the area.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, AK
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Why are people leaving Fairbanks, Alaska? It’s not clear, but in the last decade more it has lost more than 7,000 residents to migration. Most of those people left the area in the last two years.

Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, OH
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Toledo isn’t a large city, but it lost more than 18,400 residents int he last ten years. The good news is that houses are very affordable; the bad news is that no one wants to live there. Toledo has one of the highest crime rates in the United States and very little to offer in the way of culture.

New York, New York

New York, NY
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Wait, New York is shrinking? How is that possible? Though there’s a constant churn in the number of residents, the city that never sleeps is gradually showing a net loss in population as residents migrate. It’s just too expensive to live in NYC.

Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, CT
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Hartford, Connecticut, lost about .5% of its population last year. It’s ranked one of the worst cities to live in thanks to high crime rates, poor job opportunities, and a lack of cultural interest.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, CA
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Who can afford to live in Los Angeles? Almost 94,000 residents migrated from the city in recent years due to the staggering housing prices and miserable traffic congestion.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City, NJ
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Atlantic City, New Jersey, has lost about 1.7% of its population in the last decade, thanks in part to dwindling tourist trade. Atlantic City is no longer the hotspot it was in the last century, and its faded glory doesn’t offer much in the way of career opportunities for residents.

Bakersfield, California

Bakersfield, CA
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Simply put, Bakersfield doesn’t have enough jobs to go around. Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it’s population has decreased by more than 7,000 people in the last decade as residents look for better opportunities elsewhere.

Washington, DC

Washington, DC
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It’s hard to imagine that Washington is shrinking, given how massive and overcrowded the DC metro area seems. However, housing costs and unemployment are both way above the national average in the city, driving the population down by a small but significant percentage.

Rockford, Illinois

Rockford, IL
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From 2010-2017, Rockford lost just over 3% of its population. 18,789 former residents left the city in that time period. The former industrial center now has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

Wichita, Kansas

Wichita, KS
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Wichita, Kansas, lost more than 10,000 residents in the last ten years. Although the city on the river looks beautiful in photographs, it has a shockingly high crime rate.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, AL
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Mobile, Alabama, has lost more than 8,500 residents to migration recently, as people leave for greener pastures in Birmingham or Huntsville. A poverty rate of more than 20% is a major factor.

Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie, PA
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Erie, Pennsylvania, used to be a major manufacturing hub–but that was almost a century ago. Now, the city is losing residents at an alarming rate. The population decreased by more than 8,500 in the last decade.

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