Growing America, shrinking Pittsburgh: City population falls 2.6 percent since 2000

(The Center Square) – The struggle of the Pittsburgh area to attract residents is creating problems for the future.

And while the second-largest city in the state has anemic growth, Philadelphia keeps getting bigger.

Though the U.S. population grew by 17.8% from 2000-22, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area has shrunk by 2.6%, according to a new policy brief from the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. Pittsburgh’s population loss “stands in stark contrast to the nation’s substantial growth,” Allegheny Institute Executive Director Frank Gamrat wrote.

In 2000, the Pittsburgh area had 2.43 million people. By 2020, it had slid to 2.37 million people.

The Pittsburgh metropolitan area comprises Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, Beaver, Butler, Fayette and Armstrong counties. For these seven counties, the Census Bureau data has few silver linings. The natural population change has been negative since 2000, meaning that the area had more deaths than births. Nor has the area attracted many international migrants to make up for natural population loss; it counts about 53,000 immigrants since 2000.

In-migration, either from other counties or states, also didn’t help.

“It is safe to say that since most of the counties in the MSA suffered domestic out-migration losses that far out-paced the counties with in-migration totals, a large number of people left the MSA entirely, contributing to the loss of population in the first decade and the lackluster gains in the second,” Gamrat wrote.

The growth of other cities of similar sizes puts Pittsburgh’s problem in perspective.

Since 2010, Pittsburgh has slightly grown by 0.47%, not enough to make up for its losses earlier in the 21st century. Meanwhile, Columbus, Ohio grew 12.6%, Charlotte in its North Carolina counties grew 18.8%, Omaha in its Nebraska counties grew 14%, and Salt Lake City, Utah grew 15.8%. By the next census, Columbus and Charlotte will have surpassed Pittsburgh in size, thanks to natural population growth and net migration numbers.

“Absent a shift to a much friendlier business climate, less labor conflict and domination of the public sector, lower-cost government and lower taxes, the Pittsburgh region is unlikely to share proportionally in the nation’s growth and fall further behind its counterparts across the country that are moving ahead rapidly,” Gamrat wrote.

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