The population of the United States has increased steadily by roughly 2.5 million people every year since World War II. Throughout prosperity and hard times, Americans continue to have families. Many of the country’s regions have expanded to accommodate this population increase. Some cities have grown faster than others as the result of being at the center of some important new technology or job market. Others have lost residents because of failing industries and migration. Nevertheless, some of these cities have continued to grow slowly, or at least remain relatively stagnant, buoyed by the rising tide of the national population.
There are some cities, however, which have experienced such severe hardship and decline that their populations have actually decreased significantly. New Orleans has lost more than a quarter of its population in the past ten years as the result of Hurricane Katrina. The rest of the cities that have lost major parts of their population have seen their flagship industries which include coal, steel, oil, and auto-related manufacturing fall off or completely collapse. America moved away from its status as an industrial superpower in the second half of the 20th century as the services sector rose to replace it. Millions of US manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. Cities such as Rochester, Cleveland and Buffalo declined in population because they were trade hubs, and new modes of transportation removed their geographical dominance. Cities like Flint, Michigan have economies based on a single major industry. In Flint’s case, that industry is auto manufacturing. When that industry began to decline, Flint was unable to diversify to prevent a population exodus.
All of the cities on this list experienced at least one of these devastating problems which have caused tens of thousands, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of its residents to leave the region for other jobs and other homes. While it has been the primary focus of these cities to create new sources of employment for their residents, it may be years before people return, if they do at all.