Census 2020: The Midwest’s population problem

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 7:38 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The results of the census released Monday showed slow population growth in Ohio and Michigan. This was no surprise for local experts, who say this has been the trend in the midwest for decades.

Ohio and Michigan each lost a seat in the House of Representatives due to this most recent census count, but a local demographer says that political representation is only the beginning of the Midwest’s population problem.

“There are only five states that have slower growth rates than we do [in Ohio],” says Karen Guzzo, director of Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research.

Those five states are:

1. West Virginia -3.2%

2. Mississippi -0.2%

3. Illinois -0.1%

4. Connecticut +0.9%

5. Michigan +2%

6. Ohio +2.3%

Guzzo says that Ohio’s population is not only growing slowly, but it’s also getting older. As the population retires and passes away, there’s a smaller tax base to support the growing number of people aging out of the workforce.

And financially supporting an aging population is not the only concern. Ohio’s infrastructure is also getting older.

In a report card from the Ohio section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the group gave Ohio’s infrastructure a “C-” and estimated that it would cost the state $120 million to perform critical maintenance just on inland waterways over the next 15 years. It calls for another $300 million to replace dams.

“Many cities in Ohio experienced an economic and infrastructure boom over 75 years ago, and now the aging infrastructure is close to – or past – its useful life, requiring replacement. Furthermore, many of Ohio’s largest communities have lost a significant portion of their population leading to a greater financial burden for today’s current population to maintain stormwater infrastructure.,” reads the report.

In order to support these impending tax burdens, Guzzos says the state needs to create incentives for young people to stay in the Midwest.

“Ohio doesn’t get a lot of people coming into the state, we have a lot of college students, but they don’t stay,” says Guzzo.

But young people have concerns about staying.

University of Toledo (UT) student Makayla Puckett is concerned about being able to support herself financially based on opportunities here in the Midwest.

“My fear is graduating from college and then not having a job and not being able to pay my student loans and then having to work fast food for the rest of my life,” she says.

Sydney Richardson, another UT student, is studying international business. She anticipates having to leave the area in order to thrive professionally.

“I would just say that there’s better opportunities in other places for my field,” she says.

UT students also expressed a desire to live in a place with more excitement and local activities. Many cities, such as Toledo, Maumee, and Perrysburg, are addressing this by revitalizing their downtowns and adding DORAs, but that only goes so far.

“There have to be careers here. It can’t just be a cool place to live where there are lots of restaurants. There have to be careers for people,” says Guzzo.

“Good job opportunities would get a lot of people to stay,” says Puckett.

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