Biggest Losers

On March 11, 2012 · 6 Comments

I’ve been playing around with the 2010 United States Census results by county again, this time comparing them to the previous decennial census conducted in 2000. This allows one to observe population shifts taking place over the prior decade. I tend to find more interest in the larger shifts, which is true I suppose for most observers, particularly those places that lost the greatest number of residents. I wasn’t too surprised by the results. Well, I’ll amend that a bit by remarking that one of the biggest losers misaligned with my preconceived notions.

Wayne County, Michigan



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Wayne County is home to Detroit, and topped the list. It’s firmly at the center of heavy manufacturing job hemorrhaging particularly within the automotive industry. Did anyone imagine that one not making the list? Right. It’s obvious. That’s not the unanticipated result I mentioned. I featured Detroit’s situation in an article about real estate prices a couple of years ago. It was possible then and probably still today to find hundreds of homes available for purchase for less than ten thousand dollars. Detroit may bulldoze whole portions of the city to deal with its shrinkage.

As an aside, the real estate feature appears to have been removed from Google Maps since I last focused here, but the town boundary feature now exists. I never realized until now that Detroit is a doughnut city: check out the completely enveloped adjoining towns of Highland Park and Hamtramck at its center.

Wayne County lost 240,000 residents over the decade, or more than 11% of its population. To put that within perspective, that’s about the same population as Windsor, Ontario, its neighbor across the Detroit River in Canada. Imagine everyone in Windsor moving away, or everyone in Norfolk, Virginia or Plymouth, England or the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. That’s the magnitude of population loss in Wayne County during the first decade of the new millennium.


Cook County, Illinois



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Cook County, anchored by the city Chicago, is the one that surprised me a bit. Cook lost about 182 thousand residents. However it’s not so bad as a percentage (~3%) due to its immense size. The story here is a bit different though. According to the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago lost a hefty 200,000 residents in the last decade, most of them African-Americans, while suburban counties grew dramatically in numbers and diversity, according to 2010 census data released Tuesday. People continued to spread out far from the region’s urban hub, as thousands flocked to Will, Kane and McHenry counties, all of which experienced a second decade of vigorous double-digit growth, the numbers showed.

It’s more of a population shift than an economic loss unlike what has been experienced by Detroit. People are trading chairs but they’re not necessarily leaving the extended metropolitan area. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning developed an excellent map that clearly demonstrated that effect. Some of the innermost sections of Chicago had fewer residents, but many of them were wealthier.


Orleans Parish, Louisiana



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Population decline can be a study of heartbreak and decline. I don’t mean to diminish the slow-moving tragedy that is Detroit, but the devastation of New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina seems to bring grief to a completely different level. This one is particularly difficult for me personally due to family ties both in Louisiana and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Katrina blasted New Orleans and surrounding areas in August 2005. Corresponding population loss was abundantly evident four-and-a-half years later when census takers combed through the bayous. A solid 140 thousand fewer people lived in Orleans Parish in 2010 than in 2000. Similar, proportional stories could be observed in neighboring Parishes such as St. Bernard.

The New York Times offered an excellent set of maps that detailed population loss in New Orleans. It also explained,

The Lower Ninth Ward, the poorest neighborhood in the city and the one hardest hit by the storm, had the largest population decrease. Pockets of New Orleans East, a low-lying section of the city that was also devastated by the storm, also had large drops. The few areas with an increase in population tended to be along the Mississippi River, a higher-elevation section of the city that was not significantly flooded after the storm.

There are signs that New Orleans Parish has been picking-up population so it will fall from the Biggest Losers list in 2020.


Cuyahoga County, Ohio



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Cuyahoga County, home to the city of Cleveland, lost just north of a hundred thousand residents. Nonetheless, the Cleveland Plain Dealer opined somewhat optimistically that it could have been worse. Cuyahoga seems to combine elements of Detroit and Chicago, with losses in manufacturing jobs but also the retention of a decent portion of its population within the greater economic area (albeit outside of Cuyahoga).

The list of population loss drops very quickly from there. The top (bottom?) four locations stand out rather starkly when compared to the remainder of counties losing residents.


Totally Unrelated

Long-time 12MC reader Randy Clark shared an interesting map with me a few days ago. Check out this wonderful set of geographically-themed street names in the Rancho Yolo neighborhood of Davis, California.



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East of Pole Line Avenue we see: Inner Circle; Full Circle; Broken Circle; Quarter Circle; Outer Circle; Hidden Circle; and just to top things off, Diameter Drive. It reminds me a bit of Corona’s Corona.

Nice find, Randy!

On March 11, 2012 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “Biggest Losers”

  1. Is it bad that as soon as I saw <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_Circle_%28reggae_band%29&quot; 'Inner Circle' I immediately got the theme song from COPS in my head?

  2. John Deeth says:

    You might like this one from my college town, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We called it “The Planets.”

    https://maps.google.com/?ll=44.852857,-91.486459&spn=0.009675,0.026157&t=m&z=16

    The main artery, Starr Avenue, pre-existed and was named for someone (NOT football legend Bart Starr). When the suburban growth reached this area in the late 50s early 60s, the developer evidently thought some Space Age planet names would sell some lots. One of my friends really enjoyed telling people, “I live on Mars.”

  3. John Deeth says:

    Also, the Neptune to Comet jump was that way LONG before Pluto was de-planeted. But I was always a little disturbed by the absence of Earth between Venus and Mars. I blame Marvin the Martian and his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

  4. January First-of-May says:

    I wonder what counties were the biggest losers in terms of percentage rather than raw numbers (as the latter obviously favors counties that were big cities in the first place).
    Well, I do realize that this version is likely to favor counties with smaller populations instead (and indeed Kalawao, the current second smallest, is likely to take the lead at 38.8%), but still 😉

    • Excellent call. I actually compiled that and planned to list it in the article but it was starting to get too lengthy. Let’s set aside a couple of the Census Areas of the unorganized borough in Alaska (some of them split during the decade so it makes it seems like a couple of them "lost" a big chunk of their population). You came close on Kalawao but it’s actually not the largest percentage loss. Here are the Top 5:

      1. St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana (-46.60%)
      2. Kalawao County, Hawaii (-38.78%)
      3. Issaquena County, Mississippi (-38.17%)
      4. Cameron Parish, Louisiana (-31.55%)
      5. Orleans Parish, Louisiana (-29.06%)

      Unlike the large numerical population drops discussed in the article, the percentage drops are very gradual. More than 200 counties experienced double-digit percentage drops.

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