Where Population Declines but the Economy Grows

While the scale of Detroit's population loss is well known, the lesser known that the city's economy has grown steadily in recent decades. It's not alone.

1 minute read

March 17, 2018, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Park Fountain

Joe Gough / Shutterstock

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan famously stated, "the single standard a mayor should be defined on is whether the population of the city is going up or going down."

An article by Hamilton Lombard begins with telling that story to suggest that Mayor Duggan's assessment is incomplete. "Today, Detroit’s gross domestic product is the highest it has been since the 1990s, when the city’s population was 30 percent larger," according to Duggan "Yet Detroit’s population has continued declining each year since Duggan’s election [in 2013]."

The presumption that population decline indicates a larger problem than it does is relevant in many parts of the country—like most of Virginia and cities like Buffalo and Pittsburgh. "Over the past ten years, both the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Metro areas experienced population decline while their per capita income levels rose more than some metro areas with the fastest growing populations in the country, including Orlando and Phoenix," explains Hamilton.

After digging deeper into the statistics of population decline end economic growth in counties around Virginia, Hamilton also suggests why it's important for communities with declining population to make a more honest assessment of their economy.

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