In 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. population grew by just 0.1%, the smallest growth in the nation's history. Population growth rebounded only slightly in 2022, growing by 0.4%. While experts point to COVID-19 as a major reason for such historically low growth figures, the last two years are merely a continuation of a trend that has lasted for decades.

Long gone are the years of booming growth, like the 1950s, when the population increased close to 2% every year. Outside of a small surge in the 1990s, population growth has been slowing ever since. And the national decline in population growth has been accompanied by another trend: the loss of tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of residents every decade in some of the nation's largest cities.

There are, in fact, several cities that were once among the nation's biggest metropolises and have become shadows of their former selves, due in large part to job losses and demographic shifts.

One such city is Youngstown, Ohio. Now home to 60,270 people, Youngstown's population declined by 108,060, or 64.2%, since 1950, when its population totaled 168,330. Over that period, the city went from the 57th most populous in the United States to the 643rd.

Since 1950, the decade that saw the largest drop in the city's population was the 1960s, when the number of people residing there fell by 26,901, or 16.1%.

Data in this story is from historical editions of the U.S. Census Bureau's decennial censuses. Current population figures are from July 2021.


RankCityPop. change, 1950-2021Pct. change, 1950-2021 (%)Population in 2021Population in 1950
1Detroit, MI-1,217,104-65.8632,4641,849,568
2St. Louis, MO-563,486-65.8293,310856,796
3Cleveland, OH-546,817-59.8367,991914,808
4Pittsburgh, PA-376,375-55.6300,431676,806
5Buffalo, NY-303,325-52.3276,807580,132
6Youngstown, OH-108,060-64.260,270168,330
7Flint, MI-82,515-50.680,628163,143