Is Your City Dying?

Forbes released a list of America’s Fastest-Dying Cities. Their criteria were as follows:

These 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.

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% a year, versus a nationwide average of 2.7%.

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% declines from a year ago. Detroit is off only about 15%, Cleveland only 8%. Don’t call it a bright spot. Prices never went up in the first place.

Here are the cities:

1. Canton, Ohio.
2. Youngstown, Ohio
3. Flint, Michigan
4. Scranton, Pennsylvania
5. Dayton, Ohio
6. Cleveland, Ohio
7. Springfield, Massachusetts
8. Buffalo, New York
9. Detroit, Michigan
10. Charleston, West Virginia


Are the numbers telling the whole story? I live in a city that’s been afflicted with negative net population growth in recent years. And around 17% of people also live below the poverty line. Yet the economy is stable to good, even now.

Why? Because a decent portion of the 17% of impoverished people are trust funders who are clever with their taxes and declare most of their income as gifts. And the negative net population growth has to do with a transient university population. I doubt that numbers alone can determine whether a city is “dying.”

-Some of these cities might be dying a slow death, but if global warming continues to throw out devastating storms, cities prone to floods, hurricanes, or massive fires could outpace them in the demise department. I think that’s a bigger threat than cities slowly shrinking or adjusting to bad economies.

This country’s infrastructure is crumbling. Rebuilding requires–what else?–steel. These cities are, for the most part, in the Rust Belt. Barring additional research, is it fair to say that industry might soon require what some of these cities have to offer?

Do you agree with the list?
What’s the biggest threat to your own city?