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Old 05-30-2013, 08:22 PM
Location: Sydney, Australia
138 posts, read 197,029 times
Reputation: 61


There are many US cities, mainly in the east that have lost a substantial amount of people since their hay days of the 1950's and 1960's.

Chicago's population was 3,620,962 in 1950, now it is 2,714,856
Philadelphia was 2,071,605 in 1950, now it is 1,547,607
Detroit was 1,849,568 in 1950, now it is 701,475
Boston was 801,444 in 1950, now it is 636,479
Baltimore was 949,708 in 1950, now it is 621,342
Washington D.C. was 802,178 in 1950, now it is 632,323
Milwaukee was 741,324 in 1960, now it is 598,916
Cleveland was 914,808 in 1950, now it is 390,928
Minneapolis was 521,718 in 1950, now it is 392,880
New Orleans was 627,525 in 1960, now it is 369,250
St. Louis was 856,796 in 1950, now it is 318,172
Pittsburgh was 676,806 in 1950, now it is 306,211
Cincinnati was 503,998 in 1950, now it is 296,550

What caused these cities to shrink so much?
Some are starting to see steady increases again while others are continuing to lose more people.
Will any of these cities recover and once again be back to their former glory?
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:33 PM
Location: Chicago, IL/Houston, TX
874 posts, read 1,163,118 times
Reputation: 567
There's a lot of factors that go into it. Right now, it's too early to tell. I think you'll have to give it about another 10-15 years before you can really answer that question.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:39 PM
1,119 posts, read 2,463,568 times
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Lots of people have put up with the urban lifestyle and moved to the suburbs since then. Look at the metro population stat of those cities between 1950 and now and you'll know why.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:55 PM
Location: Sault Ste. Marie, MI
302 posts, read 592,708 times
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The city of Rome went from having over a million people at the height of the Roman Empire in the first century to having something like 14,000 people in the Dark Ages. Rome has over two million inhabitants now. You can't say that Detroit, St. Louis or any of the other cities will never reach their historical heights ever again. History very well might prove you wrong. Saying that, most of those cities probably won't reach or exceed their historical populations in the next twenty or thirty years. (Washington and Minneapolis probably have the best chances though.)

The reasons these cities have lost population are varied, but the most important factors would be:
1) increased suburbanization after the Second World War saw much of the middle class population of cities move out to suburbs outside the city limits
2) Changes in municipal annexation laws in some States, so that some cities had a much harder time annexing the suburbs their former middle class inhabitants were moving to
3) Changes in household sizes, so that a house in Chicago that might have had a large immigrant family with many children living in it in 1940 might now have a childless Yuppie couple
4) The rise of sunbelt cities such as Phoenix, Houston and Atlanta has siphoned a lot of the population of the Northeast and Midwest towards the Southern and Western States

There were also other factors, such as riots and racial tensions in the 1960's (The 1967 riot in Detroit is considered a pretty big turning point in the regional history there), poor public transportation and city planning (Again in Detroit, the Auto companies were always pretty hostile towards the development of the city's public transportation system, and they pushed for the elimination of the city's street car system in favor of buses), and the decline of manufacturing in the Rust Belt region.

Last edited by ManoftheNorth; 05-30-2013 at 09:19 PM..
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:02 PM
Location: Sydney, Australia
138 posts, read 197,029 times
Reputation: 61
Maybe I shouldn't ask why it happened. I am just curious if people who live in these cities believe their cities will bounce back or continue to decline.
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:02 PM
Location: Seattle, Washington
1,875 posts, read 2,697,126 times
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I doubt it. Most american cities in th 1950's and 60's shrunk but now some of of those same cities are growing at rapid rates. It's not that Detroit or St. Louis of other cities in the rust belt cant be great, but there is too much crime, poverty, and internal problems that are making people move away from the city. Many only returning into the urban core for work and then go back into the suburbs. The lack of leadership in these cities is whats keeping them down. They people to invest, companies to invest, and spend time focusing on cleaning up the bad neighborhoods, and improvign quality of life in the community before they really can evolve.
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:06 PM
Location: Sydney, Australia
138 posts, read 197,029 times
Reputation: 61
That is a really good answer. I have tried to google that and never really found a satisfying answer to that question.
Thanks for that
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:26 PM
Location: Saint Louis
189 posts, read 306,427 times
Reputation: 255
The rise and fall of cities is just something that happens over time and forever is a long time. To look at a very long term example of urban decay and revival, look no further than the "Eternal City" of Rome. During the Roman Empire, the population of Rome was more than one million. By the time of the middle ages, the population had dropped to 35 thousand. Yes, 35 thousand people, a population the size of Annapolis, in the dark ages wandered around and lived among the ruins of the largest city that had ever existed before that point. It wasn't until after world war 1, almost two thousand years later, that Rome once again had a million people. History is littered with once mighty cities that have collapsed and crumbled to nothing and cities that have grown and fallen and grown over time.

It would be foolish to think that the great cities of today such as New York or London or Tokyo could not one day be completely or nearly completely abandoned. In fact, we already know that with sea level rises due to global warming, large parts of the east and west coast will have to be abandoned over the course of several hundred years. Where will those people go? Probably many will move to the cities in the midwest, mountain west, and texas.

Will the cities you listed come back? Probably yes at some point in the distant future, but the time frame is anyone's guess. In the short term, these cities need to focus on developing new industries and fighting crime and poverty. I'm personally familiar only with the local dynamics of St. Louis at the moment but I'm sure we will turn around our population loss by the next census. In the long term, these things are irrelevant and the combination of demographics and geology determine destiny. If the US population stops growing, all cities will go into decline. If the sea waters come in, then kiss miami and new orleans goodbye first but much of the populated areas on east and west coasts will be at risk shortly after.


Last edited by JuanHamez; 05-30-2013 at 09:37 PM..
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:42 PM
865 posts, read 1,234,939 times
Reputation: 315
Some may regain their former glory, but most will not.

My city, Cincinnati, for example, was at one point the 6th largest city in the US. There is no way that it will ever claim that title again, but I do think that the city is growing again.

We lost a lot of population during the 1950's-1970's due to highway construction and urban renewal.

Source: Interstate 75 Cincinnati

The train station is still there, but other than that, pretty much every building in that picture is gone and replaced with low density industrial buildings. Construction of I-75 alone displaced 20,000 people and the urban renewal in the area displaced another tens of thousands. Add to that the fact that the city limits really haven't changed since the 1950's, increased suburban development, smaller family sizes, and the demolition of homes to make way for commercial buildings (University of Cincinnati area) and it is no surprise that Cincinnati has lost so much of it's peak population.

However, there is a lot of positive momentum in the city right now. A lot of people are moving into downtown and surrounding neighborhoods (population jumped 60% in the last decade), crime has been decreasing, and there is over $7 billion in projects underway accross the city. The 2012 census estimates showed a population increase from last year, so hopefully we are starting to grow again.
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:45 PM
Location: St. Louis
1,221 posts, read 2,276,649 times
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I don't know if cities like Cleveland or St. Louis or the others will ever come back to the heights they once were, but that doesn't mean that they can't still be great cities. A lot of people are under the impression that cities need populations of 4-5+ million (metro area) to be really good "urban" cities, and that's simply not true. I think with the right amount of housing rehab/infill, urban planning, and expansion of public transportation that all of the Rust Belt cities can be great again even if they don't ever return to "major city" status. Lord knows they already have the bones for it, but it's definitely an uphill battle. Too many people are still stuck in the old mindset that the cities are too dangerous and the suburbs are the only option, but I do think that that's beginning to change.
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