30 Years: Exodus from Pittsburgh has finally abated

Part of the 30 Years, 30 Changes series on the Pittsburgh region

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In 1983, the Pittsburgh region was in the midst of one of the greatest population slides ever for an American urban center -- once the eighth-largest city in the country.

The city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and metropolitan Pittsburgh area consistently lost population in every decennial census after 1960, with the 1980s serving as the greatest period for the depressing view of moving vans' tail lights. Population drain became a long-running stain on the region's image into the 21st century.

The past few years, however, have brought an end to the hemorrhage. The actual census head count of 2010 showed another drop from the prior one in 2000, but the federal government's annual estimates have turned positive. The growth -- far less than 1 percent annually -- is extremely modest by most cities' standards, but its very existence represents major news.

A relatively robust economy, an influx of students attending local universities and a boost in the quality of life in the Downtown core have all been cited as factors helping spur regional growth between 2009 and 2012, based on census estimates. More people are moving into southwestern Pennsylvania than moving out, a rarity in recent decades.

Most of the population reversal has been in Allegheny County, where the trend in the 1980s had been dispersal of its residents into both outlying counties and places more distant.

And the city itself is also thought to be gaining people, although its July 2012 population estimate of 306,211 is less than half its former peak, with Pittsburgh now ranking 61st nationally instead of its 1910 position of eighth.

The metropolitan area has held up better in rankings. It added Fayette, Butler and Armstrong counties over the past 30 years (joining Allegheny, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland) and is the nation's 22nd largest MSA (metropolitan statistical area), with an estimated population of 2,360,733 in 2012.


Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255. First Published October 6, 2013 4:00 AM


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