Friday, 21 March 2014

More 1950 to 2010 comparisons

An earlier blog post compared the population loss experienced in various parts of Rust Belt cities. These cities are known for having experienced population loss and urban decay, but are usually thought as not quite as bad as Rust Belt cities. I've also included Montreal which I mentioned experienced significant population losses in certain inner neighbourhoods in another post.

1950 Population: 3,620,962
2010 Population: 2,695,598
1950-2010 Change: -25.6%
2000-2010 Change: -6.9%
2010-2012 Change: +0.7% (estimate)

1950 Population: 2,071,605
2010 Population: 1,526,006
1950-2010 Change: -26.3%
2000-2010 Change: +0.6%
2010-2012 Change: +1.4% (estimate)

1950 Population: 949,708
2010 Population: 620,961
1950-2010 Change: -34.6%
2000-2010 Change: -4.6%
2010-2012 Change: +0.1% (estimate)

1950 Population: 503,998
2010 Population: 296,945
1950-2010 Change: -41.1%
2000-2010 Change: -10.4%
2010-2012 Change: -0.1% (estimate)

New Orleans
1950 Population: 570,445
2010 Population: 343,829
1950-2010 Change: -39.7% (-45.2% since 1960 peak)
2000-2010 Change: -29.1%
2010-2012 Change: +7.4% (estimate)

1951 Population: 1,247,627 (within the 2011 city limits)
2011 Population: 1,649,519
1951-2011 Change: +32.2%

The American cities appear to have reached the point where they are no longer losing population as a whole.


For Chicago, the districts follow community areas, although some smaller ones have been combined together. Population losses in parts of the South Side were almost as great as in inner Detroit, but elsewhere has been variable and it's not as easy to make out patterns as for other cities. After the South Side, the worst losses have been in parts of the West side and Englewood. Several neighbourhoods saw more moderate population losses presumably due to decreasing household sizes. Several outer neighbourhoods saw significant growth due to new construction. The population gains in parts of the northwest and southwest are mostly in hispanic neighbourhoods, with the gains starting in the 1980s, reversing a period of population loss. This is around the time when the shift to becoming hispanic occured. The Loop and Inner South Side also saw major population gains.


Philadelphia saw moderate population gains in Center City, but the surrounding neighbourhoods experienced significant population losses, especially in the inner north side. These losses were still not quite as bad as in the more hard hit cities. Going further from Center City, losses get smaller and smaller, until one reaches the outermost neighbourhoods which saw population gains. The outer Northeast was evidently built mostly post-1950.


Baltimore experienced a bit worse population loss in the core than Philadelphia, while outer neighbourhoods saw little population change. The inner 18.7 square miles of Baltimore went from holding 54% to 33% of the city's population.

Inner 18.7 sq mi
1950: 463,066
2010: 192,742

Outer 62.2 sq mi
1950: 389,042
2010: 390,127


Cincinnati saw very steep population losses in the "basin" as most neighbourhoods there were subjects of major "urban renewal" schemes. These neighbourhoods made up the oldest and densest part of the city, and were largely dominated by rows of small 3-5 storey apartment buildings, while the rest of the city is dominated by lower density building forms similar to those of typical Midwestern cities. Population losses decreased further from the core. Note that some inner suburbs and city neighbourhoods were lumped together into single districts.

New Orleans
Although New Orleans experienced much of its population loss following Hurricane Katrina, many neighbourhoods were already experiencing significant losses prior to that. Growth in outer neighbourhoods appears to have been responsible for the population gain in the 1950s and even mitigating population loss after 1960 in inner neighbourhoods. The population losses in these inner neighbourhoods were fairly significant, and much of these neighbourhoods were not too badly hit by Katrina, especially those locating near the Mississippi at higher elevation on the natural levee. The worst hit areas were largely neighbourhoods in the North and East of the city which experienced significant population loss from 2000-2010 but it appears not so much prior to that. The French Quarter appears relatively intact but nonetheless lost 60% of its 1950 population.

Although Montreal never experienced major population loss within city limits as a whole, inner neighbourhoods have lost around half their population or close. Except for Lachine, Verdun and Outremont, the boroughs that were amalgamated into Montreal in 2002 all experienced major population gains. However, outer neighbourhoods that were already within city limits in 1951 like Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Longue Pointe and St. Michel also experienced major population gains.

 In 1951 the areas that lost population held 787,690 people, and lost 326,513 (-42.9%). This compares to a 1951 population of 1,247,627 for the area within the 2011 city limits (highlighted areas on the map), so a big chunk of the city. In cases like the neighbourhood east of Downtown (69% loss), there was some population due to urban renewal and expansion of the CBD's commercial and institutional uses. However, in the neighbourhoods that lost 32-47% of their population, loss of residential uses was negligible, and in some cases, there was intensification through new construction and brownfield redevelopment (perhaps even a bit of greenfield growth).

Household size decreases* in Montreal probably led to greater population decreases than in the average American city, but it nonetheless helps provide some context for discussions about the effect of household size changes.

Some of these Montreal neighbourhoods had even greater populations in 1941. Whether they lost population prior to that too is unclear. 1931 population data by ward is available, however, no map of the wards is provided, and the names given to wards are no longer in use for present day neighbourhoods, so it's difficult to know what areas they refer to (does anyone know?). It's certainly possible that they would have lost population prior to WWII though, neighbourhoods of New York, Paris and London all lost population prior to WWII due to decrowding. The industrial and commercial part of Montreal was already expanding into the formerly residential old "faubourgs" at that time (now part of downtown). Elsewhere it's less clear, Montreal was not as "mature" as Paris in the early 20th century, neighbourhood densities were lower, and it's possible they intensified enough to counter the effect of household size decreases.

*In this blog, household size decreases will usually refer to household decreases but also other forms of decrowding such as combining smaller units into larger ones, as long as the building density doesn't decrease.


  1. Montreal 1931 wards: you can find maps in Louis Rosenberg, Canadian Jewish Population Studies no 4: A Study of the Growth and Changes in the Distribution of the Jewish Population of Montreal – key to the ward numbers is in table 11, page 31 (pdf page 37).
    Stephen Leacock's 1942 book Montreal, Seaport and City (available from includes a map that tries to show the francophone population by ward, but the map contains serious arithmetic and geographical errors, including completely wrong figures for a few wards, and confusion between Mount Royal ward (Côte-des-Neiges) and the adjacent Town of Mount Royal.

  2. I was actually able to find the 1931 boundaries a while ago and used that in a later post.