The vanishing American cityscape: A forecast for 2100

The vanishing American cityscape: A forecast for 2100

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 17: The skyline of Chicago is seen on January 17, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. View is from the south of the city looking north. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 17: The skyline of Chicago is seen on January 17, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. View is from the south of the city looking north. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Win McNamee
5:03 AM EST, January 18, 2024

In a groundbreaking study, researchers from the University of Chicago have projected that by 2100, nearly half of the almost 30,000 cities in the United States could face significant population decline. This shift has the potential to transform the nation's urban landscape dramatically, leading to many cities becoming akin to ghost towns.

Regional variations and causes

The study reveals an intriguing regional disparity: while cities in the South and West are witnessing population increases, critical areas in the Northeast and Midwest, including cities like Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh, are expected to undergo a depopulation of 12 to 23 percent. Factors influencing these changes range from an aging population and economic shifts to varying access to transportation and the effects of climate change. Interestingly, the study points out that urban cities with lower median household incomes in the Northeast and Midwest are more prone to experience such depopulation.

Implications and future outlook

This trend could exacerbate socio-economic challenges, particularly for lower-income households in these regions, by impacting the affordability and sustainability of infrastructure services. Furthermore, the study notes an increasing reliance on vehicles in growing urban cities in the South and West. As we move towards 2100, understanding and planning for these demographic shifts will be crucial in addressing the evolving needs of American cities and their residents.

Initially commissioned by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the research provides a critical insight into the future challenges and transformations that may define the urban American landscape in the coming decades​​.

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