Census: Philadelphia grew, slightly

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After decade upon decade of population drops that began when Harry Truman was president, the number of residents in Philadelphia appears to have stabilized. (AP Photo / Tom Mihalek, File)

The population of Philadelphia grew ever so slightly in the past decade, reversing a 50-year trend of decline, according to official census figures released today.

The number of people living in the city increased by 8,456 to 1,526,006, a rise of 0.6 percent.

Still, it's cause for celebration by government leaders and civic boosters, who have labored to lure people and businesses back to the city and stop the hemorrhage of population.

It suggests that Philadelphia's population may have stabilized, after decade upon decade of drops that began when Harry Truman was president.

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Philadelphia's population went up because...

Until today, graphs of the city's population showed the development of a classic bell curve - small wings on the sides, representing ascent and descent, with a huge bulge in the middle.

Starting in 1790, when the city had 54,388 residents, the population began 130 years of growth that would be stymied, only briefly, by the Great Depression. As economic calamity faded, Philadelphia resumed its march toward what would be its peak population of 2,071,605 in 1950.

After that, it was all downhill, as the city's industrial base shrank and white residents left for the suburbs. By 2000 the city had lost 554,055 people, a decline of 26.7 percent.

Also significant is that the increase in city population from 2000 to 2010 represents the Census Bureau's official, person by person count.

Unlike the bureau's annual estimates, which are based on samples and include various margins of error, the data released today is the government's complete count of the state population, broken down into municipalities and smaller tracts.

This initial release of data is limited to three categories: Population, race, and percentage of occupied housing.

Some observers suggested that Philadelphia was bound to see growth - many big cities are undergoing a resurgence, as young hipsters move into revived, post-industrial neighborhoods and senior citizens decide to move closer to museums, theaters and restaurants.

Many of the big cities cited in the initial release of data saw gains. But not every city grew, indicating that Philadelphia's gains are based on more than general trends.

Chicago lost 200,000 people, 6.9 percent of its population. Baltimore lost 30,000 people, 4.6 percent of its population.

Data for cities that best compare to Philadelphia, such as Boston, New York and Detroit, are not yet available.

Cities in the American south and west continued to expand, with San Antonio, Charlotte, Las Vegas, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose all seeing gains in population.

 


Contact staff writer Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415 or jgammage@phillynews.com.

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