© 2023 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip: news@wesa.fm

Pittsburgh-Area Population Declined By Thousands Between 2016 And 2017

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA
Both Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh metropolitan area faced more population decline than most comparable regions between 2016 and 2017.

Southwestern Pennsylvania suffered population decline in the thousands, according to the 2017 list of county and metropolitan area population released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh metro area lost 8,169 residents between 2016 and 2017, or 0.3 percent of its 2016 population of 2,341,536. That makes Pittsburgh the biggest decline of any metro area in the country aside from Chicago, IL.

Allegheny County suffered a similar drop. It lost 4,505 residents between 2016 and 2017, or 0.4 percent of its 2016 population of 1,227,553. The loss makes Allegheny County the fifth-worst county in the nation for numeric population decline. In 2017, the only counties with higher population loss were St. Louis city, MO; Cuyahoga County, OH; Baltimore city, MD; and Cook County, IL.

Credit U.S. Census Bureau

Christopher Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, said that southwestern Pennsylvania has long faced population issues, although he recounts a period between 2007 and 2014 of small growth. "We were doing really well here for a number of years but historically we've always lost folks going back to almost World War II,” Briem explained. 

Pittsburgh’s population trends older than other places, he said, and the area usually sees more deaths than births. Older generations usually don’t want to stay here, either, Briem notes, because southwestern Pennsylvania is seen as a cold—and urban—place to retire.

Briem said he believes that job growth could attract more people to southwestern Pennsylvania. "The economic migration of workers is a reflection of job growth, and for Pittsburgh it's really a question of employers competing for workers in a national market, so if there's job growth here, I think we'll see the folks come," he said. 

Nearly 23 percent of metropolitan areas in the United States experienced population decreases between 2016 and 2017. Over half of all U.S. counties gained population in that time period, and 43.7 percent lost population.

In the U.S. Census Bureau’s report, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas metropolitan area topped the list of the largest-growing regions in the country for the second year, largely due to international and domestic migration. The New York-Newark-Jersey area also remains the most populous region in the United States. Philadelphia comes in at eighth most populous.

Adelina Lancianese is the assistant producer for the NPR Story Lab, a creative studio that fosters newsroom experimentation and incubates new podcasts. At the Story Lab, Lancianese works primarily on investigative, long-form projects, and also helps organize the annual Story Lab Workshop for the development of new independent and Member station podcasts.
To make informed decisions, the public must receive unbiased truth.

As Southwestern Pennsylvania’s only independent public radio news and information station, we give voice to provocative ideas that foster a vibrant, informed, diverse and caring community.

WESA is primarily funded by listener contributions. Your financial support comes with no strings attached. It is free from commercial or political influence…that’s what makes WESA a free vital community resource. Your support funds important local journalism by WESA and NPR national reporters.

You give what you can, and you get news you can trust.
Please give now to continue providing fact-based journalism — a monthly gift of just $5 or $10 makes a big difference.