Ohio rural, urban areas lose population to 'burbs

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2011 6:52 PM
Ohio rural, urban areas lose population to 'burbs

Ohio's population _ and its political clout _ have moved away from industrial centers and rural counties in the northern part of the state to suburbs, especially those around Columbus and Cincinnati.

U.S. Census data released Wednesday showed that Democratic strongholds Cleveland and Youngstown lost a bigger percentage of people over the past decade than any other cities in the state.

While northeast Ohio still has half of the state's 20 largest cities, all but one of those cities, Cuyahoga Falls, lost residents in the last 10 years.

Cleveland's population dropped by 17 percent to just under 400,000. That's now almost half the size of Columbus, the state's largest city, with 787,000 people. Columbus was the only major city in the state to gain people. Cincinnati, the state's third-biggest city, saw its population drop by 10 percent to 296,000.

Around the state, 33 counties lost people over the past decade, including seven out of Ohio's 10 biggest counties, the census found.

Counties in rural areas of northwest and north-central Ohio also saw big drops. Many of those losing people in rural areas were those along the Indiana and Pennsylvania state lines.

The most growth over the last 10 years has been in suburban counties north of Columbus and Cincinnati. Delaware County near Columbus grew by 58 percent while Warren County near Cincinnati saw its population increase by 34 percent. Both counties are solidly Republican over the years.

It's no coincidence that the state's political power is following its shifting population, said Justin Buchler, political science professor at Case-Western Reserve in Cleveland.

"That's simply a matter of numbers," he said.

Republicans swept all of Ohio's statewide offices in elections last November, gained control of the Legislature and won a majority of the state's congressional seats.

It stands to figure that will continue as Ohio redraws its political boundaries based on the latest census data.

Ohio is one of two states losing a pair of seats in Congress because it has been unable to keep up with the growth in warm-weather states. Its overall population grew by 183,000 people over the last decade to 11.5 million, but it wasn't enough to keep up with fast-growing states, so the number of congressional districts will drop to 16.

The impact of the census goes far beyond politics.

It helps businesses decide where to build shopping malls and restaurants, and companies will use the data when determining where to locate their offices.

"It's a redistribution of need for wealth, need for services, labor force," said Mark Salling, who studies demographic issues at Cleveland State University's Urban Center. "It's lots of things that have an impact on people's everyday lives."

Older suburbs surrounding Cleveland also lost residents as people move father out.

"In the last 10 years, there's been a lot more recognition that those cities are more susceptible to population declines," Salling said. "It's become much more apparent and severe."