Milwaukee: Slow Growth, But Still Dispersing

The new 2010 census figures for Milwaukee reveal one of the nation's slowest growing metropolitan areas. From 2000 to 2010, Milwaukee grew 3.7 percent, from 1,501,000 to 1,556,000. Milwaukee's growth rate places it in a third place tie with Los Angeles (Cleveland and Pittsburgh lost population).

The historical core municipality of Milwaukee fell 0.4 percent, from 597,000 to 595,000. This is the lowest population count since the 1940 census and it is possible that the population living in the 1940 boundaries could be substantially lower. Since that time the land area of the city has more than doubled (from 43 square miles to 97 square miles), which is likely to have masked severe losses in the older urban core of the city (such losses have occurred in nearly all historical core municipalities in the nation).  The city reached its population peak in 1960, with 741,000 residents in the expanded boundaries.

The suburbs gained 6.4 percent and attracted more than 100 percent of the population growth in the 2000s. The largest growth, at 12.1 percent, was in Washington County, which is further from the urban core than the other two suburban counties. Waukesha added 29,000 residents, growing 8.1 percent, from 361,000 to 390,000, while Ozuakee County grew from 82,000 to 87,000, for a growth rate of 5.6 percent. The core county of Milwaukee, which includes the city of Milwaukee, grew 0.8 percent, from 940,000 to 948,000.