Story at a glance:

  • Among 385 big cities, the U.S. has seen just a 9 percent growth in population between 2010 and 2020, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Some declining cities, like Pine Bluff, Ark., are dependent on industrial manufacturing companies, which are struggling due to foreign competition and outsourcing.
  • Pine Bluff southeast of Little Rock, is the fastest shrinking city in the country.

The U.S. population is experiencing its slowest growth rate since the 1930s, according to the Census Bureau, with big cities seeing just a 9 percent increase in population between 2010 and 2020 — and smaller cities shrinking away almost entirely. 

Many cities are losing people to the lack of economic opportunity following the mechanization of agriculture, foreign competition and outsourcing, reported The New York TimesThe fastest shrinking city in the last decade was Pine Bluff, Ark., southeast of Little Rock, where the population dropped by 12.5 percent between 2010 and 2020. The population is now 41,250, down from 49,000, according to The New York Times. 


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Other shrinking cities are in West Virginia, including Charleston, where the population dropped by almost 12 percent percent since 2010. The city now has a population of 45,264, down from 51,400. In Beckley, W.Va.the population decreased by slightly more than 12 percent, now sitting at 15,482. 

Other declining cities include Elmira, N.Y., which shrank by slightly more than 7 percent to a population of 27,110.

Editor's Note: This story was updated on Aug. 20 to reflect data from the World Population Review.


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Published on Aug 17, 2021