CLEVELAND — The newly-released 2020 Census data shows that Cleveland lost nearly 24,000 residents over the past decade, Cincinnati and Columbus grew significantly, and the state’s population increased by a sluggish 2.3% compared to national growth of 7.4%.
Changes in Northeast Ohio
Cuyahoga County went from 1,280,122 residents in 2010 to 1,264,817 in 2020, a drop of 1.2%. Every county surrounding Cuyahoga gained population, with the exception of Summit, which essentially stayed the same, losing just 1,353 residents in the last 10 years.
Columbus and Franklin County saw big gains in the last decade, with the state’s capital gaining nearly 120,000 residents and its county 160,000, even as 33 of the state’s 88 counties lost population. Surrounding counties Union and Delaware also saw big gains – over 20% in the last decade.
Cincinnati and its suburbs also grew significantly since 2010, following the national trend of the fastest growth occurring in large cities and surrounding suburbs, with population in many rural areas declining in the most recent national census, according to reporting by the Associated Press.
Cleveland wasn’t the only Northeast Ohio city to see declines — Akron, Youngstown and Canton lost population, as did Toledo and Dayton.
Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for Cleveland mayor, said the decline is “both a warning bell and a call to action for political, civic, corporate and community leaders to take dramatic, innovative action to reverse that decades-long trend.”
He touted the city’s many assets — including Lake Erie, world-class medical and cultural institutions and major league sports — but said its challenges must be tackled.
“Unless we can effectively address those negatives, our city will continue to shrink, get poorer, sicker, older, more distressed and more hopeless,” he said in a statement.
While much of our area saw a decline in overall population, the Census showed many Northeast Ohio counties seeing slight to modest gains in the voting-age population, with the exception of eastern counties bordering Pennsylvania.
With a decline of 24,000 residents since 2010, Cleveland’s population dropped below 375,000, which, under the city’s charter, would require the council to reapportion its wards to dissolve two of them, dropping total wards in the city from 17 to 15.
City Council chief of communications Joan Mazzolini told News 5 the delay in the release of the Census numbers this year means the wards won’t have to be reapportioned for several years.
“Under the Charter, Council must reapportion its wards by April 1, 2021, provided the proclamation on population from the Secretary of State comes to the City no later than February 16, 2021,” Mazzonlini said. “Because the proclamation came after February 16, 2021, redistricting doesn't have to happen until April 1, 2025, (prior to the next regular municipal election).”
Initial Census numbers released earlier this year foreshadowed the stagnant growth of the state overall, costing the state a congressional seat; Ohio will go from 16 representatives in the U.S. House to 15 after the congressional districts are redrawn.
How those new districts will be drawn is up to the Republican-led state Legislature and a new Ohio Redistricting Commission dominated by GOP members. Ohio’s cities tend to lean heavily toward Democrats, while the state’s contracting rural and Appalachian regions have lately swung toward Republicans.
The commission was created as part of new map-drawing rules approved by Ohio voters, meant to fight partisan gerrymandering. They require the independent commission to finish redrawing legislative districts by Sept. 1. There’s a Sept. 30 deadline for the General Assembly to complete a new map of the state’s congressional districts.
The Equal Districts Coalition, representing nearly 30 advocacy organizations and unions, called on the panel to act immediately now that the data is in hand.
“For too long, Ohioans have been shut out of the political process,” said Jeniece Brock, vice chair of the Ohio Citizens’ Redistricting Commission. ”We finally have a chance to fix that with fair maps — but only if our process is transparent and allows all of us an equal say in how our futures are drawn.”
Michael Finney, chief financial and administrative officer at Ohio University, which has the state data contract, said it will take about two weeks to process the data and get it to the Legislative Service Commission. The process involves merging precinct maps, historical voting data and the new census figures, he said.
More diverse populations across our area
The racial composition of the counties in Northeast Ohio saw changes over the last 10 years that mirrored much of the rest of the country. The white population of every county in the state declined at least slightly, about 5% on average, with Lake County seeing a 6.8% decline, and Geauga, which had a 96.9% white population in 2010 declining slightly to 93.7%.
While the Black or African-American population increased in some counties, residents who identified on the census as two or more races made up the group that saw the most growth over the last decade in almost every Northeast Ohio county. That group grew from 2.1% in Cuyahoga County in 2010 to 5.9% in 2020, while the county’s Black or African-American population dropped a slight .4% to 29.3%.
The 2020 Census differentiated between ethnicity and race with two separate questions, ethnicity being a choice between Hispanic/Latino or not Hispanic Latino. The ethnic composition of Cuyahoga County went from 4.8% who identified as Hispanic or Latino in 2010 to 6.6% in 2020.
Cleveland’s legacy as a racially segregated city, with places like the Sidaway Bridge serving as a stark reminder, is reinforced by the 2020 Census block data, showing most blocks east of the Cuyahoga River are still majority Black, and blocks to the west mostly white.
The effects of this disconnect are seen and felt every day, and some have been amplified by the pandemic, from the gap between Black and white homeownership to the digital divide, with parts of the city having much more access to high-speed broadband than others.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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