Not all shrinking places are similar: The variegated nature of population decline in the United States

David N. Karp, Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen, Peter Rogerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Shrinking cities have become almost ubiquitous during the long transition of post-industrial America. While many fear population losses to be a harbinger of economic decline, others have argued that the economic and demographic transition of a shrinking city need not be a death knell for those urban communities. In this study, we conduct an analysis of more than 10,000 U.S. census tracts experiencing population loss in order to better understand the variegated nature of population decline in the United States. Using high-dimensional cluster analysis, we classify tracts into seven distinct groups, and then assess group differences based on population characteristics and built environment indicators. Our findings show inter- and intraregional characteristics that are far from uniform. Our results imply that public policy responses cannot be developed as a one-size-fits-all strategy, nor should the outlook of urban shrinkage be understood as a nationally uniform crisis. Future work can build upon our typological definitions to offer additional insights valuable to local decision makers and leaders regarding the complex relationship between demographic change and associated socio-economic outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102581
JournalApplied Geography
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Cluster analysis
  • Population loss
  • Shrinking places
  • Socio-economic conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Not all shrinking places are similar: The variegated nature of population decline in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this