Youngstown tops the U.S. Census Bureau list of highest percentage of population loss among the nation’s 729 communities of at least 50,000 residents between the 2010 census and a July 2012 estimate.
Also, Youngstown is the only city on the list with a decline of more than 2 percent.
Youngstown’s population dropped from 66,982 in the 2010 census to 65,405 in the July 2012 estimate, a 2.4-percent decline, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released today.
No. 2 on the list is Flint, Mich., which saw its population decline by 1.9 percent.
Among the top 10 cities with the highest percentage of population loss between 2010 and 2012, six are in Michigan, three are in Ohio (the other two are Cleveland and Lakewood) and one is in Indiana.
Only 72 of the 729 communities with populations of at least 50,000 saw declines between 2010 and 2012.
“It surprises me we’re No. 1,” said Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone.
“It doesn’t surprise me we’re losing population.”
The poor quality of most of the city’s neighborhoods is the main reason for the population decline, he said.
“People can’t believe how bad the neighborhoods are,” said Sammarone, mayor since August 2011. “I’ve been pushing demolitions and code enforcement. If we don’t continue to do those, the population will continue to drop. People don’t like the condition of the neighborhoods and the city didn’t respond fast enough. We’re moving ahead with demolitions and code enforcement, but it can’t be resolved overnight. We are focused on turning it around and that takes time.”
Council President Jamael Tito Brown, a former community organizer for Youngstown State University’s Urban and Regional Studies Department, said more is needed than demolishing vacant homes to improve the city’s neighborhoods.
“We have to put a plan together to address the declining population,” he said. “It’s not a quick fix. We need someone focused on neighborhoods. We have to find out what people like and dislike about their neighborhoods and get a pulse on those needs. We can’t just talk about it.”
While people are appreciative that the city is demolishing and removing blighted home, Brown said, the city needs to focus on attracting private investments into the neighborhoods for them to survive.
In years without census reports, the federal bureau provides annual estimates using birth and death records, and migration data.
The city’s population peaked in 1950 when it was 168,330. With the 65,405 estimate for 2012, the city’s population has decreased by more than 61 percent since 1950.
That includes an 18.4 percent decline between 2000 and 2010, and a 14.9 percent decline between 1990 and 2000. Both were among the top five largest percentage population declines in the nation between decennial census reports.
In 1950, Youngstown was the 57th most-populous city in the nation.
The 2012 estimate has Youngstown as the 521st most-populous city in the nation. In 2000, Youngstown was the 314th most-populous city with 82,026 residents.