American Cities Adapt to Shrinking Populations

Monday, March 15, 2010

Across America, dozens of towns have seen their populations shrink in the past few years. For cities like Detroit or Cleveland, the demographic decline started well before the economic downturn. For others, like Las Vegas, it’s a brand-new phenomenon. Local governments are trying to adjust to the new reality, and some of them are choosing to downsize. The Kansas City Board of Education voted last Wednesday to shut down nearly half its schools due to dwindling enrollment. And last week, Detroit's mayor announced that the city will demolish thousands of its vacant homes.

Hunter Morrison, a urban planner in Youngstown, Oh. was one of the leading architects of Youngstown 2010, a comprehensive planning effort to make the city smaller, greener, and cleaner.

Ed Glaeser is a professor of economics at Harvard and director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government.


Ed Glaeser and Hunter Morrison

Hosted by:

Lynn Sherr

Produced by:

Marine Olivesi

Comments [4]

Mike from Kansas City, MO

The national media seems more interested in a sound bite than understanding the real issues associated with the school closings in Kansas City. As Professor Glaeser noted in the audio clip, Kansas City has actually gained population in the last 20 years. The dwindling enrollment in the public schools has been going on for years and is a function of its poor performance and poor school board leadership that has been historically ineffectual. The school closings are dealing with right sizing the facilities to match the current enrollment and school budget. The kids are there; their parents are just fed up and have sought out alternatives such as private schools and charter schools as correctly noted by Vaugh below.

Mar. 16 2010 07:55 PM
Vaughn from Kansas City, MO

I've lived in Kansas City, MO for about 10 years now. The public school enrollment has not shrunk due to lack of population or need, it's shrunk due to residents not trusting the quality of the education provided and the environment. I've heard that some of our schools had even lost their accreditation. Many parents have taken their children out of public schools and placed them in private and charter schools. It's disheartening for the children left behind because their parents can't afford private school and many of the charter schools fill up quickly at enrollment each year. It's a sad situation. No urban core areas should ever be neglected. If one part of a city hurts, then the entire city hurts. We should always strive to help one another, help all our areas and make our living environments safe and improved for all.

Mar. 16 2010 01:49 PM
Sandy from Edmond, OK

After living over 30 years in Laramie, WY, my husband and I relocated near Oklahoma City, OK--a non-glamorous, but fun city. The reason being that WY is a part of what has been referred to as "the empty quarter." The population base there is so small that there is no economy of scale to even provide air transportation. The state is heavily dependent upon the surrounding states for any major services.

Mar. 16 2010 12:07 PM
teena from Hollywood, Fla

I've lived in Hollywood, Fla since 1957, coming here as a child. Now a lot of people I know and the empty houses I see is a testament to the fact that we're unable to afford living in S. Fla. For quite awhile I've said that in the not distant future only the wealthy will be able to live here. The future is very close and just about every one I speak to agrees and are looking for a way to get out, cost of living here and owning property is becoming unsustainable.

Mar. 15 2010 09:15 AM

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