Thursday, July 2, 2009

Population changes along the river (updated)

It's been 23 years since I spent much time along the lower Ohio River. The journalist in my blood makes me want to return. Reviewing some data from the Census Bureau makes that desire stronger.

Today the Census Bureau released its population estimates for cities and minor civil subdivisions such as townships. I checked the population estimates for about 20 cities along the Ohio, and almost all of them have fewer people than in 2000. Now the estimates are based on a lot of data that are collected, and the further you get from the actual head count every 10 years, the more chance the estimates are off.

I found six cities on my list that have more people now than in 2000: Maysville KY, Cincinnati, Louisville, Henderson KY, Owensboro KY and Madison IN.

So I checked the population estimates for each county along the Ohio, and it's clear that counties near the major cities are gaining people, while those elsewhere are losing people. The losses are greatest at each end of the river. That's particularly true in the lower end. Alexander and Pulaski counties in Illinois -- closest to the mouth of the Ohio -- have seen population losses of about 15 and 13.2 percent, respectively.

In fact, no Illinois county along the river has seen its population increase since 2000. Massac County comes the closes to being stable, with a loss of less than 1 percent, which could be within the margins of error of how the Census Bureau makes its estimates.

Counties at the other end of the river also are losing people, from Pittsburgh to both sides of the river along West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.

I'm not familiar enough with either area to assume to know the causes. The lost of heavy manufacturing in the Northern Panhandle has affected that area. I have read some things about the lower river, but not nearly enough to speak with any hint of expertise.