10 Fastest-Declining Cities in the U.S., According to the Data

Unveil the urban tragedies shaping the narrative of America's 10 fastest-fading cities.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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If you're looking to retire early by moving to a new city or just want a change of scenery, many cities in the U.S. probably seem like promising candidates.

However, some of the most famous cities in the U.S. no longer appear to be hotspots, and many have turned ice-cold.

A recent FinanceBuzz study tracked growth and decline in cities over a three-year period that began with the last full pre-pandemic year (2019) and ended in 2022. Every U.S. city with a population above 200,000 people in 2019 was included, for a total of 117 cities.

Based on several criteria — from population change to new businesses and percentage of residents with debt in collections — these are the top 10 fastest-declining cities in the U.S.

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San Francisco

Larry D Crain/Adobe north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge

Between 2019 and 2022, San Francisco witnessed a remarkable 8.29% decline in population, marking the most significant drop among the 117 cities in the FinanceBuzz study.

In addition to the population exodus, home values in the city saw sluggish growth, trailing the national average by nearly 73%.

Slow per-capita rates of new home construction and business openings add to the challenges in this legendary city.

If you plan to move here, prepare yourself financially for living in the country's fastest-declining city.

New Orleans

f11photo/Adobe pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter New Orleans

New Orleans stands out for having the highest rate of vacant houses among the cities analyzed, with a staggering 22.9% of homes unoccupied.

The city experienced a 5% population decline over the three years ending in 2022, coupled with meager rates of new home construction and new business openings.

New York

THANANIT/Adobe statue of liberty over the scene of new york

Despite its iconic status, New York City is grappling with economic challenges, as home values rose at a rate 71% slower than other cities in the three years ending in 2022.

The Big Apple’s unemployment rate jumped by 1.2%, sharing the highest increase with Detroit among the top 10 declining cities.

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Boston

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe boston massachusetts

Boston experienced a 6% decline in population over the three years of the study. Home value increases lagged 62% behind the national average.

These factors collectively position Boston in the top five of the fastest-declining cities, signaling a challenging period for the historic city.

Detroit

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe skyscape of detroit michigan at midnight

Detroit's population decline of 7.4% between 2019 and 2022 placed it second only to San Francisco.

Beyond the exodus of residents, per-capita income in the city rose sluggishly, trailing the national average by 75%, the third worst rate in the country.

Chicago

Tierney/Adobe chicago river with boats and traffic

Another Midwestern city, Chicago, saw home values rise 58% slower than other cities.

Additionally, per-capita income growth lagged by 36% compared to its peers over the three years ending in 2022.

Anchorage, Alaska

Christopher Boswell/Adobe office buildings in downtown anchorage alaska

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska. It finds itself on this list due to sluggish home value increases and low per-capita rates of new home construction and new business openings.

These metrics reflect nasty economic headwinds for the northern city.

Portland, Oregon

f11photo/Adobe downtown portland oregon

Portland witnessed a 3% decline in population during the study period. At the same time, per capita income (26%) and home values (30%) rose at rates slower than the national average.

The combination of a shrinking population and economic slowdown positions Portland as one of the fastest-declining cities.

Honolulu

Maridav/Adobe honolulu city from diamond head lookout

Despite having a relatively low percentage of the population with debt in collections (15%), Honolulu faces housing challenges.

The city built only 135 new homes per 100,000 residents in 2022, placing it among the 10 lowest rates in the country. Existing home values increased at a rate 51% slower than in other cities nationwide.

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Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Fang/Adobe Baton Rouge downtown

Baton Rouge joins fellow Louisiana city New Orleans on this list due to slow home values and per capita income growth.

Home values in the city increased 57% slower than those of its peer cities between 2019 and 2022. Meanwhile, income rose 51% slower than the national average, so buying a home here might not be the smartest way to build wealth.

Bottom line

Drazen/Adobe daughter having fun with her parents

Perhaps 2024 is the year you plan to move to a new city. Maybe you are looking for a new place to get ahead financially or simply want a change of scenery.

However, some of the most famous cities in the U.S. may no longer be prime candidates for such a relocation. Think long and hard about whether moving to these declining cities is the right choice for your future.

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Author Details

Adam Palasciano

Adam Palasciano is a personal finance-obsessed and money-savvy individual who loves to hash out content on all things saving money. He specializes in writing millennial-friendly personal finance content, covering topics ranging from trending financial news, debt, credit cards, cryptocurrency, and more.