Philadelphia’s population grew slightly in 2018 for a 12th straight year of growth, according to Census Bureau estimates to be released Thursday, a streak that follows more than 30 years of mostly unbroken population losses that started in the 1970s.
Benjamin Gruswitz, senior planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, attributed the upward trend to several factors. In addition to an increase in the immigrant population and births outpacing deaths, he cited “an influx of people who want to live in higher-density places with walkable neighborhoods, short commutes to work, and access to transit and other amenities.”
The city added more than 3,900 residents between 2017 and 2018, about the same as in the previous yearlong period. Philadelphia’s population — which peaked at more than 2 million in 1950 — is now 1.58 million.
Nationwide, the counties with the highest numbers of new residents are in the South and the West. Of the country’s more than 3,100 counties, 55 percent gained residents between 2017 and 2018 and 44 percent lost residents. The populations of a dozen counties did not change.
The metropolitan area that includes Philadelphia, Camden, and Wilmington is the nation’s eighth most populous, with more than 6 million people. That region’s population increased by about 18,000 between 2017 and 2018.
Between 2010 and 2018, the area grew by only 2.1 percent, ranking 40th out of the 53 metropolitan areas with at least a million people.
Of the five metropolitan areas that lost residents this decade, the Pittsburgh region had the biggest drop.
No new metropolitan areas made it into the 10 most populous between 2017 and 2018, said Sandra Johnson, a demographer at the Census Bureau.
“One interesting trend we are seeing this year is that metro areas not among the most populous are ranked in the top 10 for population growth,” Johnson said in a statement.
Among people relocating within the United States, more residents left four of the region’s counties — Philadelphia, Burlington, Camden, and Delaware — than moved into them between 2017 and 2018.
Graduate student Koya Perez, a lifelong resident of Germantown, plans to join them.
Perez is pursuing a master’s degree in writing studies at St. Joseph’s University while working at QVC in Chester County. But once she’s done with school, she wants out.
“I love Philly. I was born and raised here,” said Perez, 23. “For me, personally, I’m just ready for something new.”
She wants to travel and is open to moving anywhere, she said, but she likes the city life and would love to live in Los Angeles. Perez minored in fashion and apparel design while she earned her undergraduate degree in communications at Delaware State University.
"That was my first time ever seeing outside Philly. It really opened my eyes,” she said. “I want to see what else is out there, other people, other cultures.”