Since 1950, there has been a big population shift across the United States. The "Sun Belt," cities like Phoenix, Atlanta and the states of Florida, California, and Texas, have seen a dramatic increase in population while the "Rust Belt," cities like Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, has seen an intense drop in population. Some cities have lost more than 60% of their 1950-era population. Check out the five cities that have been hit the hardest.
As The Gateway to the West, St. Louis, was at one time, the 4th largest city in the United States. In 1950, the population of St. Louis was almost a million people, 856,796 to be exact. For many years it was the central hub for commerce on the two largest waterways in North America as it sits on the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It had huge companies across industries, from beer to shoes to pet food. But much has changed. Due to a combination of reasons, the population started to decline in the 1950s and 60s and by 2010, it had lost an astounding 62.7% of its population, with only 319,294 people living in the city in 2010. Interestingly, the metropolitan area of St. Louis, which includes the surrounding counties, has grown by more than 4% in that same time period. In more recent years, St. Louis has seen many of its neighborhoods come back to life, led by immigrants, artists, and other urban pioneers.
Motor City. Motown. Detroit was an economic behemoth in the first half of the 20th Century as home to the United States auto industry. The second half of the century saw the city fall on some of the hardest times any city has faced anywhere, finally culminating in Detroit becoming the largest American city to ever declare bankruptcy in 2013. From its peak in 1950 at 1.8 million residents, Detroit has lost an incredible 61.4% - more than 1.1 million people - of its population, and in 2010 stood at 713,777 residents. Fortunately, today, it is experiencing a comeback, with artists and hipsters moving from all over Michigan and the rest of the country, in search of affordable living situations. They are transforming parts of the city, restoring old neighborhoods to their former glory.
Cleveland, city of lights, city of magic. The once-booming industrial town on the banks of Lake Erie became the punchline of many jokes in the 1980s. "The Mistake By The Lake" is what people commonly called it, especially after Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River actually caught fire. That's right, the Cuyahoga River, a body of water, was so polluted, it actually caught fire. Like a lot of other cities on the list, Cleveland reached its peak population of 914, 808 in 1950 and has been in decline ever since, losing more than 56% of its residents by 2010 and now only having 396,815. Like other cities in the Rust Belt, it is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance as the city works hard to restore and rebuild buildings that represent its former glory.
There is no city in America that quite exemplifies the proud, hardworking American middle class like Pittsburgh. The town that made the steel that built America. Strong, tough and resilient. Sadly, like the other cities on this list, it's lost more than 50% of its population since its peak in 1950. 54.8% to be exact, from a peak population of 676,806 in 1950 to 305,704 in 2010. Also like some of the other cities, much of that decline can be chalked up to residents leaving the city in favor of the suburbs in the 60s and 70s. The total decline in the region is only about 3%. One thing the city hasn't lost is great sports teams, with the football Steelers and hockey Penguins consistent contenders for championships in their respective sports, something everyone in the Eastern Pennsylvania is, of course, very proud of, nick-naming Pittsburgh the "City Of Champions."
Maybe no city on this list has suffered more than Buffalo. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Buffalo was at the heart of the Erie Canal, the most important transportation system of the 19th century. The canal annually moved millions of dollars of goods from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River in Albany, which took it down to New York City. Along the way, Buffalo thrived as a trading and industrial center with easy access to the lake and now, because of the canal, the East Coast. Eventually, railroads replaced most of the Canal's business, and Buffalo started to decline. It went from a population of 580,132 in 1950 to a population of just 270,240 in 2010. A decline of 53.4%. Like the other cities, Buffalo has seen a recent rebirth, as young artists and chefs move to the city looking for cheap rents and authenticity.
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