Dayton Population Falls 3.6 Percent

Jun. 30–DAYTON — Ohio’s metropolitan cities are near the top of a national ranking, but it’s nothing to brag about.

Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton are among the top 10 fastest-shrinking cities in America, says U.S. Census estimates released today.

Dayton lost an estimated 5,904 people or 3.6 percent of its population during the four-year period from April 1, 2000, to July 1, 2004. That put Dayton at No. 10 for population loss among 251 U.S. cities with more than 100,000 people.

For the year ending July 1, 2004, Dayton ranked 18th from the bottom in percent population loss, with a decrease of 1,539 people or 1 percent to shrink to 160,293 residents.

Cincinnati, Toledo and Cleveland all had even larger percentage losses in population than Dayton for the year ending last July 1. Only Columbus, among Ohio’s big cities, showed a population increase for the period. The state capital grew by an estimated 1,442 people for a 0.2 percent increase, ranking it the 139th fastest-growing big U.S. city.

The continued population declines among the four big Ohio cities put them all in the top 25 list of people-losers for the decade through last June.

Cincinnati ranked as the second-fastest shrinking city for the four-year period from April 2000 to July 1, 2004, with a loss of 17,131 people or 5.2 percent. Detroit ranked first by losing 51,072 or 5.4 percent.

Cleveland ranked seventh by losing 18,788 people or 3.8 percent of its population during the four years.

Ohio’s population was flat during the four-year period, increasing by less than 1 percent or about 106,000 people.

Bill Teets, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Development, said the “mobile society” is playing a part in the continuing exodus from metropolitan Ohio cities.

“People are willing to travel farther for their jobs,” Teets said. And jobs move away from the inner city.”

“Declining population is certainly among the challenges from an economic development standpoint. But eventually it comes down to personal choice of individuals.”

Montgomery County lost an estimated 8,999 people during the four years. But the 10-county region — which includes Clark, Darke, Preble, Shelby, Miami, Greene, Butler, Clinton and Warren counties — grew by just over 42,000 people or 2.6 percent to reach 1.7 million. Warren County, which grew by 19.4 percent or close to 31,000, accounted for almost three-quarters of that growth. Without Warren County, the region grew by less than 1 percent.

In the Dayton area, the losses continued in the inner-ring suburbs, according to the estimates. Oakwood, West Carrollton, Kettering, Riverside, Moraine, Vandalia and Trotwood all lost population during the four-year period. Oakwood, which lost 4.3 percent of its population or an estimated 398 people, led the 45 largest cities and villages in the Greater Dayton region in shrinkage.

And the inner city and suburban loss continued to fuel gains by the so-called exurbs, farther out from the metropolitan core. The nine fastest-growing cities and villages in the region were all in Warren County, led by Springboro, which gained an estimated 3,374 people for a 27.2 percent growth. Mason gained 5,888 people or 26.7 percent.

Jim Dinneen, Dayton’s city manager, blamed sprawl for much of the decline in Dayton and inner ring cities.

“What’s happening is, the population in general hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, but what we’re doing is moving farther and farther out,” he said.

Dinneen said it was “kind of unnerving” to see other cities, such as Oakwood and Kettering losing such a high percentage of their population.

“When the city of Oakwood loses a larger percentage of their population than we do, that tells you something,” he said. “It’s kind of like all the extra retail they’re building here. There’s only so much market to go around and obviously the older your housing is, something has to fall out.”

But continued sprawl in a region that isn’t growing, Dinneen said, will end up costing everyone.

“The price is devalued housing,” Dinneen said. “And you’re creating more and more infrastructure with less and less density, and that creates a higher bill to maintain it over the long run.”

Oakwood City Manager Norbert Klopsch said he was surprised by the new data because the city’s schools are seeing an increase in students. In addition, he said he’s not aware of “any measurable amount” of increase in vacant housing.

“I guess I would have to look at that data and maybe question it,” he said.

Shrinking household size could be a possible explanation, Klopsch said.

“If you had a lot of older kids who had been continuing to live at home, but who have left the nest at a higher rate than previously, it would drop our population but wouldn’t be affecting the schools,” he said.

Springboro City Manager Christine Thompson said her city’s growth figures sounded right.

“We did some buildout projections in 2002 that says we’re pretty much on track,” said Thompson, who has worked for the city 17 years. “Our total growth picture is about 23,000.”

Thompson said the city has seen a slowing in building permits this year that could result in about one-third of its usual 300 annual permits.

“After 15 years of consistent high growth, we’re starting to see a little bit of a slowdown,” she said. “We’re simply running out of land, and we projected that back in 2002.”

Once again, cities in the West and South led the way in population growth. Only two cities outside the Sunbelt — Joliet, Ill., a Chicago suburb; and Raleigh, N.C. — made the top 25 fastest growing cities for the year ending last June.

“Outmigration from the Midwest has been the longstanding trend,” said Census demographer Greg Harper. “Look at the historical data. In 1990, Detroit was still the seventh-largest city in the country.”

But Detroit, the fastest-shrinking big city in the nation, has fallen out of the top 10.

“These trends have been going on for quite awhile,” he said.


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