Declining Population Admirer Foolishness

Declining Population Admirer Foolishness

In a tour de force of economic ignorance, the writer of an opinion piece in the Post-Gazette argues that Pittsburgh is doing just fine with its population losses. According to the writer the economy is growing and we are turning green and what could be better, especially compared to the problems facing rapid growth cities.

Apparently the author has missed the fact that when population declines, tax base also shrinks. If municipal services are not cut and public employment reduced, financial troubles will develop. The writer might want to check out Pittsburgh’s distressed status, as well as those of many communities in the Mon Valley, all caused in whole or in part by the departure of tax base and the inability or unwillingness to make the spending cuts necessary to maintain financial solvency.

As far as growth is concerned, the Pittsburgh region had 30,000 fewer private sector jobs in May of 2009 than there were in May 1999. If you want flat or declining population, that is a surefire prescription. Indeed, the two are closely linked.

Where there is no net job growth, young people and middle aged folks looking for promising career opportunities will have to go elsewhere. That means grandparents are separated from grandchildren, one of the most frequently heard laments in areas losing population.

It is not necessary to grow rapidly but any city or area constantly losing population is not a healthy place, regardless of the underlying causes of its stagnation. When an area is unattractive to new immigrants, there is something amiss and no amount of chest pounding about the advantages of zero or negative population growth can fool anyone with a modicum of common sense or who really cares about the future.