By: J. B. Wogan, Governing the States and Localities
Published: September 2017
Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its latest data on cities and population growth. The reaction is always the same: News outlets look at the numbers showing which places gained and which ones shed residents, and use them as instant proxies for a decline, a boom or a turnaround in cities all over the country.
Population loss can become a symbol for other things people feel is going wrong in a city, such as rising poverty and unemployment rates, vacant and blighted housing, increased violent crime, the exit of pro sports franchises, racial segregation and police
brutality. The “decline” in newspaper headlines may refer to the population, but it’s often shorthand for a host of complex problems, an easy-to-understand indicator that things are getting worse.
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