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Why Midwestern cities are shrinking while cities in Texas are growing

Ann Schmidt

Cities in the Midwest are shrinking, according to recent data.

Meanwhile, cities in the West and Southwest -- particularly Texas -- are growing.

According to data published by the U.S. Census Bureau last month, of the 10 “fastest-declining large cities” in the U.S. over the last decade, five are in the Midwest: one city in Illinois, two cities in Indiana and two cities in Michigan.

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Leading the way for cities with the “largest numeric decrease” in the last decade was Detroit, which has lost 43,867 residents since 2010.

Other Midwestern cities on the list included St. Louis, which lost 18,713 residents, Cleveland, which lost 15,656 residents, Toledo, Ohio, which lost 14,578 residents and Rockford, Illinois, which lost 7,676 residents, according to the Census Bureau.

Earlier this week, The Chicago Tribune reported that Midwestern cities are struggling because they have relied on manufacturing.

However, as manufacturers move or close, those cities end up with higher taxes but fewer jobs, the newspaper reported.

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“For those city economies that have not diversified, they really get hurt, they get pummeled,” David Wilson, a geography and urban planning professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told The Tribune.

“And what does that mean to get pummeled?” he added. “People have a very difficult time living there and earning a living wage. They simply can’t make ends meet. And they become primed for thinking about leaving and trying to find something better."

According to The Tribune, the coronavirus is likely to make matters worse for those cities.

Wilson told the newspaper that a city’s wealthy residents are rarely the cause of its population loss. In fact, declining population starts with poor economic conditions, leaving lower earners to look for new opportunities in places with more jobs and lower taxes.

That’s why Texas cities are among the fastest-growing in the country.

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In fact, the Lone Star State has five of the 10 fastest-growing city populations over the last decade, with Frisco leading the way. Other fastest-growing cities outside of Texas include Buckeye, Arizona; South Jordan, Utah; Meridian, Idaho; Fort Meyers, Florida; and Irvine, California, according to the Census Bureau.

Despite the decline in Midwestern cities’ populations, Chicago has remained the third-largest U.S. city, according to the Census Bureau. The Windy City has a total population of 2.69 million -- about the same as it did in 2010.

New York City has also retained its spot as the most populous U.S. city with 8.3 million residents, followed by Los Angeles, with 3.97 million residents.

Though the Midwest had five of the top 10 fastest-shrinking cities, the South had the other five, with cities in West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina.

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