While the next population data will not be updated until July, attention routinely turns to our numbers particularly with the 2020 census around the corner. The stakes are high. For example, it is said (Erie Times News), "For every one person that is not counted in the census, that equates to $2,100 of federal funds lost in our community and that’s per year until the next census…".
Population counts and their trends also tell us much about the state of our community. More so than many cities, Erie is known to benefit by being home to a rich number of New Americans. Their welcomed presence indeed contributes to slowing and offsetting the trend of population losses. And decline we have, in both city and county, consecutively almost every year since 2000.
Put in perspective, the numbers shed light on many interconnected matters. Thinking about land use and patterns of growth, it is noteworthy that the City of Erie's population (97,400 in 2017) is slightly more than it was in 1920. The city peaked in 1960 at 138,440. The County of Erie however didn't stop its growth, albeit slow, until 2012. The County population standing in 2017 at 274,500 is about what it was in 1990. Both Erie City and County are working hard to turn the population trends around. The race is on in a sense. The competition for residents boils down perhaps to the question of whether cities can regain their quality schools, perceptions of safety, good housing stock, and overall quality of life at a rate faster than suburbs can retool sprawling land use typologies to the new urbanism lifestyles people increasingly seek defined by walkability, mixed-use work/live/shop experience, and access to public transportation. Either way, the optimum path forward is growth advancing Smart Growth Principles that among values brings equity in opportunity, focuses growth on existing places, and yields ability to support great places to live, work, and play.