It's Not a Mystery Why America's Biggest Cities Are Losing Population

Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City all have some easily identifiable management problems.


Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson mulls over whether we're seeing a "great metropolitan exodus" because America's top cities have recently begun losing population.

Chicago has been losing people for years now, but Los Angeles and New York City have also found themselves on the decline. Both cities had been seeing domestic outmigration (people moving out of the city to other parts of the country) for several years, but foreign immigration into the two cities have long made up for it.

But new census data show that Los Angeles County is seeing a net loss of about 13,000 folks, and New York's Bronx, Kings, and Queens counties (all containing parts of New York City) have seen a combined net loss of about 40,000 people, based on census data released back in April.

Thompson hits some of the big issues affecting these cities (housing problems in Los Angeles, crime and racism in Chicago), but he does so in a vague "maybe this is a contributor?" fashion. It's partly understandable; because the trend is new (except in Chicago) the full nature of this population drain isn't entirely clear, and it's too soon to give firm answers without falling into confirmation biases, even if they do have statistical support. Still, each of these cities is facing some severe problems in the way they're managed, their uncertain financial situations, and a general disregard for the welfare and liberty of the citizens who live there.

Chicago. What more is there to say about a city that is infamous for its corrupt police department (not to mention the rest of its government) as well as its growing financial crisis? The city and state pension crises continue to escalate as Chicago has—for years—failed to properly fund the pensions of its very well-paid employees. The city has responded to this growing crisis not by cutting back on spending but by desperately looking for revenue anywhere they can get it, which means trying to shake more change out of the pockets of city residents. Reason's C.J. Ciaramella has documented how the city has been impounding people's cars and attempting to soak them for thousands of dollars in fines.

Now the city is hoping that recently legalized marijuana sale revenue will help balance the budget, but the high taxes on recreational weed sales guarantee that (just like in California) a black market for pot will continue to thrive. The city cannot depend on that revenue to fix its problems.

As such, Chicago is seeking more and more money from its citizens to simply stay afloat. Chicago's new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, noted in June that Chicago "cannot keep asking taxpayers to give us more revenue without the structural reforms that are fundamentally necessary to make our city and our state run better." But then in July, Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker resisted her proposed solution to combine the state's various pension systems under one umbrella out of fear it will hurt the state's extremely troubled credit rating. Adam Schuster of the Illinois Policy Institute noted that Lightfoot's plan was essentially an attempt to get a state bailout of Chicago's pension debts, and the end result would likely be a massive state deficit and more calls for tax increases.

Chicago may well be in a financial death spiral. Given all the official city-sanctioned government pickpocketing, it's not surprising that people are abandoning the Windy City.

Los Angeles. Thompson quite accurately notes that the city and the entire state of California are stuck in a crisis due to lack of housing, and it's most certainly contributing to L.A.'s outmigration (not to mention the city's expanding homeless population).

But Thompson doesn't really delve into the deliberately destructive regulatory systems in California that keep big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco from being able to efficiently build more homes.

California gives its residents way too much power to attack and veto nearby housing developments by abusing state environmental regulations. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is invoked regularly by wealthier NIMBY ("not in my backyard") types who may fret in public about the homeless crisis but will fight any solution that might bring more people to their neighborhood. CEQA is also regularly abused by construction unions to try to force developers to negotiate with them or risk long delays and court fights in order to build anything at all.

These fights naturally drive up the costs of housing, making it harder and harder for developers to actually build "affordable" housing, which then becomes another tool used to fight any housing development at all by people trying to hold back progress, complaining it will lead to gentrification and people (particularly poor minorities) getting shoved out of their homes. Research consistently shows that the idea that gentrification is caused by adding more housing to poor or minority communities is mostly nonsense. Yet it still gets used by NIMBY neighbors who are really just trying to protect their property values.

All of that is to say that the source of L.A.'s housing problem is easy to identify and solve. Instead, we're seeing responses that will make the housing problem worse—like expanded rent control. Fortunately, though, there are some major housing developments currently under construction in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the city council seems to think the solution to the city's homeless problem involves banning them from sleeping outdoors in more places.

New York City. It's tempting to just say "Mayor Bill de Blasio" as an explanation of what's ailing the Big Apple. There's a reason that de Blasio is currently one of the least popular candidates vying for the presidential nomination: He is wildly unpopular in his own state.

De Blasio has pretty much no interest in what you, as a resident of New York City, would like to do with your property, your life, or your child's education. He has said believes that the purpose of businesses and corporations are to serve the government and wants to seize and redistribute their profits if they make more money than he prefers. He has said he would like to seize poorly maintained properties to hand them over to the city's Housing Authority, even though the agency has been ranked as the worst landlord in the Big Apple by the New York City Public Advocate, the city's elected ombudsman.

De Blasio is also a massive enemy of school choice, unlike former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated his own money to support charter schools. De Blasio is fighting charter schools and gifted schools all to pander to unions and other politically powerful city residents. This attack isn't going to hurt wealthy families—they will send their kids to private schools regardless. Instead, he's hurting talented children in poor and minority families who see charter schools as an alternative when their kids are not being served well by traditional public schools. Instead of attempting to actually improve the quality of public schooling, he's trying to institute demographic quotas to decide which children attend which schools in some misguided attempt at "fairness," which will level the playing field by dragging everybody down to the city-approved level of mediocrity.

Despite de Blasio's vocal attacks against the wealthy and connected, as mayor, he's mostly served the entrenched city government power base at the expense of his own citizens. And we see the same in Los Angeles and Chicago. Is there any wonder people might be packing up and moving out?

NEXT: Ultra-Hawk John Bolton Fired From Trump Administration

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. People don’t want to live in cities that suck but make up for it by being expensive.

    Big if true.

    1. What, you don’t to ride your sustainable e-scooter over needles and human feces on your way home to your $350,000 50sq ft sleep pod?

  2. #4 and #5 are Dallas and Houston, aren’t they?

    How are they doing?

    1. They both have been ran by democrat mayors for years.

      So as expected?

      1. See Detroit for future outcome.

      2. *have been run

    2. I believe #5 is Phoenix. Phoenix is doing pretty good I think.

  3. Detroit. Run by Lefties for decades until they drove the city into actual bankruptcy.


    1. What else do lefties do? Are there ANY major cities in the US run mostly by democrats that aren’t huge shitholes?

  4. People are moving out of Chicago because the city is MAGA country now.

    1. +10000

    2. Right you are.
      Just look at all those people who wear MAGA hats like their progressive mayor.

    3. Damn, that was a good one, Fist.

    4. Chapelle’s take on that whole things was awesome.

      1. +10

    5. Don’t I know it.

  5. All of these cities are becoming corrupt, circle-jerks of apparatchiks who feed each other’s campaigns.

    1. In so many places in California, especially, growth is considered a problem and poverty is considered a solution.

      If we to survive the coming cooked world, people are just gonna have to stop fearing poverty so much and embrace the inevitable.

      1. It will all be over in 11 years.

        1. If that’s true, why doesn’t she just shut up and let us enjoy it while it lasts?

          1. Bitches rarely shut the fuck up.

      2. I have a friend that still survives in LA who is a retired school teacher.
        He says in California you either work for some government entity, Big Tech or Hollywood and most of the small businesses have moved out decades ago leaving LA and SF bastions of the very rich and the very poor.
        How sad is that?

    2. Becoming? That analysis falls pretty flat. When have the named cities not been bastions of corrupt, circle-jerks of apparatchiks? Tammany Hall, anyone?

  6. It’s really not going too far to say that the reason large cities in the east and California are having trouble competing with smaller cities in the south and the west is because the progressive ideas in the cities of the east and California are holding back their economies.

    It really is as simple as that.

    The reason Chicago and California suck is because of the backward mindset of the people who live there, and it’s no wonder that the growth is happening in places where the people aren’t so beholden to progressive mindsets, like in Texas and Idaho.

    1. I see a flood of California license plates in Georgia.

      You can tell Californians because they freak out with open carry people here in Georgia. That and the small cemeteries all over the place with Stainless Banners (Rebel Flags).

      1. You think it’s because they’re running away when what’s really happening is they’re shock troops bringing the revolution to you.

        1. Unfortunately for them, they would be shocked at how many people have guns here, carry concealed, and will defend themselves.

          That and their voting habits here don’t translate into getting what they want. Commifornia was in the same situation decades ago and reached the tipping point during the 1980s. First came all the laws and the tyranny with it.

          It will be easier to starve out a few million Lefties stuck in Atlanta with no ways out of the city.

          1. Given that the rule of law is largely over and what we’ve seen since Trump won on 2016, it’s going to take a violent civil conflict to scrape the progtards off.

        2. The new residents of Boise and the surrounding towns will end up turning all of Idaho into California via ballot initiatives very soon.

      2. I also see a lot of California, Illinois and New York plates in Colorado.
        I always say, “Welcome to America,” whenever I talk to these new immigrants from these developing third world shit holes.

        1. Sadly they bring their politics with them. They haven’t figured out that they were the reason their old home went to shit.

          1. While true, it also requires Liberty minded state residents to leave, die, or be swamped by transplant Lefties.

        2. Um. It seems they turned Colorado into a blue hole while you drove the welcome wagon.

          1. Moscow, ID and Pullman, WA have similar problems. They’ve even infested many of the surrounding farms communities. Missoula, MT, Bozeman, MT, Boise, ID (or as locals call it East Portland) and Coeur d’Alene are already terminal cases.

            1. Add the city of Spokane to the list. Six of seven city councilors are pretty much communist morons. CDA could be a lot worse, believe me.

  7. Violent crime, armies of homeless wandering the streets, gun confiscation, high taxes, corruption, onerous laws that eliminate small businesses, rent that is higher than most third world entire GPD’s, brain dead politicians looting the city’s treasuries, politically correct snowflakes trying to micromanage your life every minute, etc.
    Only someone crazy would leave a proletariat paradise like that.

  8. You left out San Francisco- the jewel in the progressive crown. Last I heard, that city was booming. Oh, and I am told cities are the future because that is where all the smart and beautiful people live, at least that’s what my betters tell me…

    1. I don’t know about SF specifically, but I have heard that in the last year or two the Bay Area population has stopped growing.

      1. We will find out with Census 2020.

        1. Does the census count homeless people? If so, I imagine SF and LA might continue to grow

          1. You bet your ass they will count homeless people. Commifornia has House seats to try to keep.

            If I were in a betting mood, I would say Commifornia is allowing so many homeless to hang out BECAUSE they want the higher Census count.

            1. I think their usual blind idiocy accounts for it just fine.

          2. It’s supposed to count homeless people. How effectively it does so is another question.

      2. If they successfully count the homeless population it may show significant growth.

  9. It’s no secret that alien abductions are behind all of this.

  10. Unfortunately, the city council seems to think the solution to the city’s homeless problem involves banning them from sleeping outdoors in more places.

    We know the solution wasn’t to let them sleep anywhere. Because once the word gets out… and the word does get out, you become a magnet for homeless people across the country.

    Meet Bobby Miller from Kentucky who came to Seattle for the uber-high minimum wage, but stayed for the homelessness.

    1. Reason thinks moral hazards don’t apply to sacred bums and Mexicans. They are sacred or something.

  11. Los Angeles County shrinks by 13,000 people — from 10,160,000 to 10,147,000 — and the clingers are celebrating?

    I prefer to celebrate the manner in which bright flight has been emptying and dooming the can’t-keep-up Republican backwaters for generations.

    1. Hi, gecko!

    2. Celebrate? I would dance on your grave Arty. But most likely you will be deposited in a landfill, face down, with hundreds of your fellow travelers after you people push too far.

  12. What sort of people are the ones leaving? If it’s the productive people then the cities are definitely in trouble.

    1. The ones with a better deal somewhere else. That would not include any of the homeless, who are well cared for in big cities.

  13. You bigoted rubes are just jealous of us progressive sophisticates who can afford million dollar shoebox condos and have the pleasure of stepping over hobo poo on our way to the soy latte shop.

    1. What do you think is in those soy lattes?

      1. Wokeness

        1. You’ve hit all the Rev’s greatest hits.

  14. The only mystery is why Reason bothers to report or comment on socialist bastions become socialist bastions.

  15. It’s tempting to just say “Mayor Bill de Blasio” as an explanation of what’s ailing the Big Apple.

    If you consider that Bill de Blasio didn’t become mayor by drawing the short straw but by actually being elected by the voters of New York City, I’d have to say the problem with New York City is the residents of New York City. And the same goes for the rest of them – you get the government you deserve.

    1. you get the government you deserve.

      That seems unfair to convicted felons, the insane, children and others who don’t vote.
      We all get the government that the idiots who vote for them deserve.

    2. Those faggot NY’ers elect assholes like him all the time. The same morons that put carpetbagger/carpet muncher Hillary Clinton in the Senate. And AOC, and Schumer, and Weiner, etc..

      So really, fuck NYC and all the commies that infest that place.

  16. “crime and racism in Chicago”
    Aside from the terrifying MAGA attack on renowned actor Jussie Smollet what makes Chicago uniquely racist?

    1. Wasn’t the attack on me enough evidence?

  17. The homeless crisis would disappear overnight simply by going back to enforceable vagrancy laws.

    1. Other cities have been busing them into Spokane. They need to be bused right back out.

  18. The easiest way to stop people from leaving the cities is to vote Democrat in 2020, so they can ruin the whole country. Then those poor fools will have no were to go that doesn’t suck ass.

    1. Yes equally crappy outcomes for all. Inequality solved.

    2. Homelessness for all!

  19. Another interesting note is that urbanites have far fewer children (well below the replacement level) then rural and exurban areas.

    1. Well, the white urbanites do, anyway.

  20. Racism in Chicago is so bad the voter just forced a black woman lesbian to become mayor. I bet she even has to sit in the back of the limousine.

    1. Initially, I read that as “shit in the back of the limousine.”

      On second thought, it still works.

  21. Chicago. What more is there to say about a city that is infamous for its corrupt police department (not to mention the rest of its government) as well as its growing financial crisis? The city and state pension crises continue to escalate as Chicago has—for years—failed to properly fund the pensions of its very well-paid employees. The city has responded to this growing crisis not by cutting back on spending but by desperately looking for revenue anywhere they can get it,

    And just how long has the democrats have had a death hold on the city of Chicago? Enough said I think!

    1. I am reading David McCoullough’s history of the Brooklyn Bridge right now. Even though everyone knew how corrupt the Democrats were in both Brooklyn and New York City (they were seperate cities at the time) they still kept getting re-elected. The more things change the more they stay the same.

  22. Not only does this trend indicate that Los Angeles is a failure, but it signals real trouble for the liberal-libertarian mainstream. If this decline continues for another 20 years . . . actually, Los Angeles County would still be a more popular community than 10 desolate, slack-jawed clinger states combined.

    1. Haha. I’m sure it’s a wonderful place to live in filth and poverty, rev. Certainly a testament to the tireless efforts of betters who will continue to build on the utopia they have created. Enjoy, old man.

    2. liberal-libertarian mainstream?

      You’re an idiot.

  23. Dragon Naturally Speaking is one of the most widely known and innovative software in this category. Since this state of the art technology is still in its developmental phase. Hence, this software demands rigorous technical assistance quite frequently. Dragon Naturally Speaking Support ensures that cutting-edge and useful technical guidance is readily available for users.

    Dragon Naturally Speaking Support

  24. Boy, you can add Filthadelphia to the list of shitholes beyond repair. The poverty rate in Philly is over 33%. It is incredible to me that I live in a very affluent suburb of Philly, but am only 15 minutes away from ‘Third World’ looking poverty. Honestly, you see it, and you just cannot believe this is the case in the United States of America.

    The current mayor of Philly, nicknamed Mayor McDrunky, is another clueless Progtard. His bright idea is to hand out needles so the addicts can shoot themselves up safely, and then proceed to wander the streets in a drug induced haze, pissing and shitting wherever they like. Philly is rapidly gaining on SFO and sidewalk shitstains.

    Let me tell you, it makes doing business in Philly sooooo appealing to have addicts wandering the streets and pissing and shitting in the doorways. The aroma is….well….very powerful. It perfectly represents the shitty one party rule in Philly.

  25. Big cities. The convenience of walking to stores, restaurants, entertainment, etc. The cost crowded streets, high living costs, high taxes, high crime, bad schools, noise. Clearly the cons are outweighing the pros for many people. I’ll just visit if I want to go to a ball game or a museum. Clean, quiet space for me.

    1. …and I’m not so sure that these “walkable” cities are as convenient as they claim to be. Spend some of your time exploring these cities with Google streetview and see how convenient your life will be — assuming that you’re not a single 20-something.

  26. Not only can daily life kind of suck in big progressive cities, you make more money if you move. I just saw this the other day:

    Where Salaries Go Furthest in 2019: The Small-City Advantage

  27. yes sure population are decreasing day by day.
    Thank you for your great information .

    You can also visit our website for great new wishes with images .

    Happy Birthday Dad Images

  28. If de Blasio is such a lousy mayor, why does he keep getting re-elected? Who benefits from him?

  29. But new census data show that Los Angeles County is seeing a net loss of about 13,000 folks, and New York’s Bronx, Kings, and Queens counties have seen a combined net loss of about 40,000 people, based on census data released back in April.

    Are these numbers per year (or other period), or from their respective peaks, or what?

  30. You’ll be adding Seattle to that list soon. What a cesspool it’s become.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.