Posts tagged with "u.s. census"

New Study Project Thousands of U.S. Cities Turning Into Ghost Towns by 2100

A recent Scientific American article highlighted the findings of a depopulation study published in Nature Cities that predicted thousands of U.S. cities will become virtual ghost towns by 2100.

The study was conducted using US census population data from 2000, 2010 and 2020. The article states “These projected findings about depopulation in U.S. cities are shaped by a multitude of factors, including the decline of industry, lower birth rates and the impacts of climate change.”

The study conducted by Nature Cities can be found HERE.


The Urban U.S. could look very different in the year 2100, in part because thousands of cities might be rendered virtual ghost towns. According to findings published in Nature Cities, the populations of some 15,000 cities around the country could dwindle to mere fractions of what they are now. The losses are projected to affect cities everywhere in the U.S. except Hawaii and Washington, D.C.

“The way we’re planning now is all based on growth, but close to half the cities in the U.S. are depopulating,” says senior author Sybil Derrible, an urban engineer at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The takeaway is that we need to shift away from growth-based planning, which is going to require an enormous cultural shift in the planning and engineering of cities.”

Derrible and his colleagues were originally commissioned by the Illinois Department of Transportation to conduct an analysis of how Illinois’s cities are projected to change over time and what the transportation challenges will be for places that are depopulating. As they got deeper into the research, though, they realized that such predictions would be useful to know for cities across the entire U.S.—and not just for major ones, such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. “Most studies have focused on big cities, but that doesn’t give us an estimation of the scale of the problem,” says lead study author Uttara Sutradhar, a doctoral candidate in civil engineering at the University of Illinois Chicago.

The authors analyzed data collected from 2000 to 2020 by the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, an annual demographics survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. This allowed them to identify current population trends in more than 24,000 cities and to model projections of future trends for nearly 32,000.  They applied the projected trends to a commonly used set of five possible future climate scenarios called the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways. These scenarios model how demographics, society and economics could change by 2100, depending on how much global warming the world experiences.

The authors’ resulting projections indicated that around half of cities in the U.S., including Cleveland, Ohio, Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh, Pa., are likely to experience depopulation of 12 to 23 percent by 2100. Some of those cities, including Louisville, Ky., New Haven, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., are not currently showing declines but are likely to in the future, according to the findings. “You might see a lot of growth in Texas right now, but if you had looked at Michigan 100 years ago, you probably would have thought that Detroit would be the largest city in the U.S. now,” Derrible says.

The full article by Nuwer on America’s projected depopulation can be found in Scientific American and by clicking HERE.

Homelessness And The U.S. Census


I came to Austin to work the 2020 census and spend time with family here. Through the census I got an up-close look at the nooks and crannies of the city, and nose-to-nose encounters with Austinites living in its jewels of Westlake and between its toes under highway bridges and behind parking lots.

At the direction of the U.S. Census, my team and I were required to meet with residents and ask the formulaic questions about age, race and whether they owned or rented their homes. Knocking on a door in Bee Cave or Westlake generally involved getting through layers of security gates to reach breath-taking homes with pools, expansive views, or private docks on the lake. I got a lot of “Leave-Me-Alone” responses often couched as “I’m really busy,” and “I’ll do it online.” The underlying dynamic was, “You are uninvited on my property,” and “How did you get past security?”

When we completed the door-knocking count, selected teams focused on finding and counting Austinites in the tortured census acronym, TNSOL (Targeted Nonstructured Outdoor Locations) — in other words, the homeless. It was easy to follow the highways to find the tent and tarp communities under the overpass intersections. More challenging was to locate people disbursed in the woods, behind Walmart dumpsters and wherever they could catch a piece of dry land near an intersection where they could “fly” their cardboard signs asking for money.

We were fortunate to have introductions from support crews such as the Travis County constable, whose Precinct 3 team seeks out the most isolated encampments to deliver food and water. Other church-based and nonprofit organizations provide food and clean water to various camps — lifelines to a population that lives in the margins. Many people we encountered seemed to suffer from addictions and illnesses that they said cost them their jobs and put them on the street in the first place. In the one officially sanctioned homeless encampment on a former state Department of Transportation storage yard, I had expected to see rows of identical tents or temporary structures like the UN refugee camps in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Here, the hundred-plus inhabitants of Camp Esperanza make their own shelters through a hodgepodge of tarps, tents and cardboard.

With the homeless there was, of course, the quiet ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ posture when we approached. But this was different. There was not the ‘Get Off My Property’ look of the high-grounders and lakesiders. The homeless were acutely aware that they have no right to be where they were and possess absolutely no property to protect. The ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ looks we got behind the iron security gates said, ‘I am where I want to be, doing what I want to do.’ The ‘Leave-Me-Alone’ under Highway 183 meant, I am in a place no one wants to be, subject to eviction, and I am humiliated. Their security moats were fear and despair. But they also seemed to project a sense of small pride in the resourcefulness to have put together enough shelter to stay alive. And as it was particularly dangerous to be alone in the woods, there were touching stories of taking in others recently on the street.

Once the regular follow-up door knocking cases started winding down, a few field supervisors like myself volunteered to take on managing teams counting the homeless population during the fourth week of September. Very few of the original crews opted to switch and take on the TNSOL. I heard concerns about the added dangers of COVID-19 exposure, unfamiliarity with the homeless population and, frankly, no interest in becoming familiar with the homeless camps. The census began recruiting people to work with the homeless; the team members I ended up working with each had a heart for the task. I was proud of them.

They were committed to getting a full and accurate count of the homeless population, and we were able to get through the Leave-Me-Alone defenses behind the tarps by acknowledging the human dignity of the people we were to “enumerate” and convincing them that they were to be counted just like everybody else in Austin, no matter where they lived.

Lenoir is a retired federal prosecutor living in Austin.