Canada, U.S. Cities with Largest CBDs Lost Population

New population estimates by census authorities in Canada (Statistics Canada) and the United States (Bureau of the Census) show that cities (municipalities) with the largest central business districts lost residents in the year ended July 1, 2021. Currently data is available for seven of the 10 such municipalities, with US data only for cities that are also counties. Data is yet to be released for Chicago, Boston and Seattle. However, in each of these cases, the counties containing these cities lost population (Cook, Illinois; Suffolk, Massachusetts and King, Washington).

The largest loss was in the city of San Francisco, which lost 6.3% of its population, dropping from 870,000 to 815,000. This erases a decade of population growth (from 2011), when the city had 816,000 residents, according to the Census Bureau.

New York lost 3.5% of its population, dropping by 305,000. Washington fell 2.9%, while Philadelphia lost 1.5%.

The losses in Canada were less, but were nonetheless surprising, because Canadian core municipalities did not suffer the huge mid to late 20th century losses that afflicted US cities like Philadelphia, Boston and Washington. Montreal lost 2.5% of its population (45,000). Vancouver lost 1.0% of its population, which is considerable given the seemingly unending densification that has occurred there (unrivaled by any core municipality in the West that was virtually fully developed by mid-century and has had no significant annexations). Toronto lost 0.6%.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council, to complete the unexpired term of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (1999-2002). He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life and Toward More Prosperous Cities: A Framing Essay on Urban Areas, Transport, Planning and the Dimensions of Sustainability.