[URBANTH-L]NEWS: The Fastest Dying Cities in the United States

jancius at ohio.edu jancius at ohio.edu
Mon Aug 18 17:35:57 EDT 2008

The fastest dying cities in the United States
Ohio tops the list with four communities in the top 10, Michigan is second


updated 12:40 p.m. ET, Thurs., Aug. 14, 2008

The turmoil of the mortgage market granted a temporary reprieve from hearing
about the woes of America's Rust Belt. That doesn't mean things are better.
Despite a decade of national prosperity, the former manufacturing backbone of
the U.S. is in rougher shape than ever, still searching for some way to replace
its long-stilled smokestacks.

Where's it worst? Ohio, according to our analysis, which racked up four of the
10 cities on our list: Youngstown, Canton, Dayton and Cleveland. The runner-up
is Michigan, with two cities — Detroit and Flint — making the ranking.

These, and four other metropolitan statistical areas, as defined by the U.S.
Census Bureau, face fleeing populations, painful waves of unemployment and
barely growing economies. By our measure, they've struggled the worst of any
areas in the nation in the 21st century. And they face even bleaker futures.
It wasn't always this way. Despite years of economic decline, in the first years
of the new century the employment situation did not look so bad — 3 percent to 4
percent unemployment was the norm, along the lines of metropolitan areas
elsewhere in the country. The rest of the decade was not so kind. Thanks to a
crushing downturn for automakers like General Motors and Ford, Detroit and
Flint, Mich., have seen unemployment approach 10 percent.
Another brutal statistic all the cities share is a diminishing population. So
far this decade, 115,000 people have left Cleveland, for other climes. Smaller
changes in other regions can be just as painful. Nearly 30,000 people have left
Youngstown, Ohio, and they aren't being replaced by either new babies or new

Still, the cities we found to be struggling don't vary widely by age, and this
factor had little influence in the rankings. The oldest city in our top 10,
Scranton, Pa., had 45 percent of its population over 45; the youngest, Flint had
38 percent over 45.
The worst news is, of course, economic. When we looked at the most recent gross
domestic product estimates for 155 metropolitan statistical areas estimated to
have $10 billion or more GDP in 2005 — economies about the size of Asheville,
N.C., or Tallahassee, Fla. — the news was predictably terrible for the Rust Belt.

In the fall of 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) published its
GDP estimates from 2001 to 2005. Nearly every city in the country grew during
this period (New Orleans, devastated from Hurricane Katrina, was the notable
exception), but the struggling cities on our list grew more sluggishly. None of
them grew more than 1.9 percent a year, versus a nationwide average of 2.7
percent. Canton, Ohio, managed to grow its economy just 0.7 percent annually.
Flint was worse still at 0.4 percent. 

None of these cities now face the huge declines in real estate prices seen by
Phoenix, Miami or Las Vegas, where the Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows
nearly 30 percent declines from a year ago. Detroit is off only about 15
percent, Cleveland only 8 percent. Don't call it a bright spot. Prices never
went up in the first place.

More on this story:
Forbes.com slide show: America’s fastest-dying cities 

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