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Top 10 US Cities in Decline

From Factory Town to Forgotten: Top 10 US Cities in Decline

Ohio and Michigan may be key battleground states this election perhaps because they have the most to gain. In the list of fastest dying American cities, Ohio scored four slots and Michigan took two — it appears in these declining Rust Belt towns, there's nowhere to go but up.

What factors peg a town as "dying?" Dwindling populations, higher than average unemployment, and stagnant economies all combine to signal bad news for a city. The automotive industry has had the biggest impact on the trend, where the Michigan cities of Flint and Detroit (pictured) have seen unemployment approach 10 percent.

Though the cities on the list aren't facing the crushing real estate landscape that Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix are seeing, it's hardly good news — the prices never climbed there to begin with. The one bright spot is that a survey shows that almost every city's economy in the US grew between 2001 and 2005; those making the list just grew at a much more depressed rate, some well below 1 percent. Here's the list:

  • Canton, OH
  • Youngstown, OH
  • Flint, MI — GM was founded here, and the city has suffered the auto decline even harder than Detroit.
  • Scranton, PA — Not even being featured on The Office can help the town build a post-industrial economy.
  • Dayton, OH

To see the rest, and one city who's rebranding to buck the trend,


  • Cleveland, OH — The city has lost over 100,000 people since 2000.
  • Springfield, MA — Springfield is actively combatting the decline by launching a rebranding as New England's "Knowledge Corridor" highlighting the boatload of universities close by.
  • Buffalo, NY — Once one of the US's 10 largest cities, it's been in decline ever since.
  • Detroit, MI — Despite economic decline, it's in the midst of a baby boom: 430,000 were born during a period where only 280,000 died.
  • Charleston, WV
  • As the shift from industry to service and information continues, what's the solution to industrial cities in decline? Given the global energy crunch and the cost of importing goods from afar, will industry return to the US — or is it gone for good? How can these cities adapt — and which candidate has the best plan to make that happen?


ohio ohio 9 years
i have only one question, what political party has been running these cities?
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Isn't this the result of our ecconomy going global? I'm not surprised that major companies are leaving American soil for cheaper labor. The real question is are we going to quash the ability of others to replace them (EPA or union)?
krazykarot krazykarot 9 years
Poor Buffalo. :( They have so much potential and there is some cool stuff going on there, but there just aren't the well paying, stable jobs to back it up. I'm also surprised that Rochester, NY isn't on there as well. It's the home of so many well recognized international companies (Kodak is the big one) but as soon as NAFTA allowed those companies to outsource, everything has been downhill with so many leaving the area to look for better job opportunities.
suziryder suziryder 9 years
I'd take issue with Scranton, PA. True, the area was hit hard, but it's on it's way up now.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
It's kind of "sad" but the landscape of the economy changes and we need to change with it. I don't look at the ghost towns where the silver mines used to be and think "we should have saved that town." Also, "I just heard on the news that "the American standard of living will not recover." -- Based on what data? Don't be sad about the nay-sayers. It's not all downhill from here.
rivrchild rivrchild 9 years
Good point, hypno, exactly what I was thinking.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
All we need to do is press the go button for a green industry and these cities (could) spark back to life. Industries come and go but if you can phase a new industry in as one is phasing out could be a simply matter of transition rather than economic failure.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 9 years
I think Torgleson and Organicsug have teamed up and are doing some tag-team sarcasm bombing. Gonna go get on the bus now. I sold my car to buy an underground bunker.
organicsugr organicsugr 9 years
I'm lost. I thought we were on the same page. We both like hybrids even though they cause great damage to the environment if one looks past the very superficial level of gasoline mileage. I for one think that they're very cute.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
You're right again, OS! It's better to look for an opportunity to be sarcastic than to engage in any kind of real and meaningful dialogue.
organicsugr organicsugr 9 years
Now that's the kind of superficial examination that I like.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
You're right, Organic! We should all drive good ole American made Ford Fusions (even though they're made Mexico) instead of Honda Civic Hybrids (made in Ohio). It doesn't matter at all that the hybrid will save about 5,000 gallons of gas over the life of the car, what's important is to blindly buy American no matter what.
organicsugr organicsugr 9 years
I'm with you. It doesn't bother me that the nickel used in the hybrid batteries causes such incredible harm to the environment by way of fossil fuels and machinery used to mine and transport it all over the world.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
> I'll just throw it away when I'm done with it. Throw the car away? Otherwise I agree. Honda or Toyota only for me. They are super reliable cars, and they pioneered hybrids.
organicsugr organicsugr 9 years
I too feel pain for Detroit, but there's no way I'd buy an American car. The unbiased publication Consumer Reports says that they're unreliable. And I guess I don't mind paying the higher costs for repairing a foreign car. I'll just throw it away when I'm done with it.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
Haha, I was confused about "Windsor, California" too. Poor Ohio.
brielleblonde brielleblonde 9 years
o gawd i have to move to canton, ohio for a job in January... and i've never been to visit. hopefully its not that bad.
zeze zeze 9 years
Haha.. of course I mean Canada! It is just across the Detroit River their skylines face each other. It is a very popular destination for 19 year olds without fake IDs.
kscincotta kscincotta 9 years
Zeze, I was going to make very similar comments about the Buffalo area and Niagara Falls in particular. It seems to me that so many of these cities have given up on themselves because the reasons they initially flourished have eroded. But so many of them still have great things to offer. Niagara Falls is amazing to behold and yet, if you compare our side of the Falls to the Canadian side, it's like night and day. We just don't know how to promote the good things that these places have to offer. It's such a sad thing, really.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 9 years
It is very sad, and I will mention another country, the UK, which is caught up in a lot of the same problems at the moment, having its own housing and banking crisis in its lap as I type this. Reading about these old cities brings a recollection of the same way certain places in England made me feel, particularly in the North, when entire communities and ways of life centered on industry, swathes of neighbourhoods and generations of tradition were destroyed when all the trades were literally taken out of the economic equation during Thatcher's era. Nobody would argue that the tumultuous time in the UK during her time in office brought some benefit, but it also irrevocably changed the face of England, what it was..will not be again. To ride by some of them now, though there are signs of recovery, is to see cities trapped in history, in suspended states of slow-rot..empty mills and factories, decaying row houses...the neighbourhoods of "Open All Hours", except real, are a dying breed, replaced by expensive modern housing in the town centre while the old neighbourhoods fall out of value.
linb linb 9 years
There is a Windsor in Canada, it is the southern most city in Canada (Wikipedia). I think (hope) that is the Windsor she meant.
Rebecca14916991 Rebecca14916991 9 years
Detroit is near Windsor, CA? as in, California? I don't think so... well, last time I looked at a map,anyway. Besides that, I do feel really bad for Detroit. I don't know whether people there will vote for Obama or not though, considering he just made the extremely bad decision to have a conference on Global Warming there and invited Al Gore, who spent most of his time putting down... what was it... industry? Y'know, that thing that most people there live off of? So, yeah. Last time I heard, voters in that area weren't so keen on him.
zeze zeze 9 years
Detroit makes me so sad. It is almost like an abandoned child, it has so much potential in my opinion, a beautiful river, nice and hot with lots of rivers, lakes, and parks in the summer and enough snow and cold to make it a winter wonderland in winter. It is near Windsor, CA which gives people twice the river side spots for restaurants, clubs, and mansions. On top of that it has such a great history with the auto industry being a part of the people (it is an insult to walk anywhere you can drive your Ford explorer) - I mean there are more auto related museums and parks (yes parks; look up Greenfield Village, the birth place of Henry Ford, where all students visit at least 3 times before getting to middle school) than art museums. There is also rich history in Motown music and jazz and lots of diversity from the famous "Greektown" (and its casinos) to the large African American population in Detroit and Arab American population in the suburbs. And aside from the pathetic football team, its is a damn good sports town! It is just sad to see a place that has so much to offer turn into a dump filled with poverty, violence, and neglect because no one wants to put forth the effort and make it the city it has the capabilities to become.
stiletta stiletta 9 years
I just heard on the news that "the American standard of living will not recover". I'm so depressed today.
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