(The Center Square) – The latest U.S. Census data shows the counties encompassing Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were among the top 10 nationwide that shrank in population last year.
Philadelphia County and Allegheny County ranked sixth and 10th, respectively. Philadelphia lost more than 22,000 of its 1.6 million residents overall, while Allegheny County shed just over 12,000 out of 1.2 million between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022.
While the numbers comprise 1% or less of the total population, the data points to an ongoing trend that sees Pennsylvania residents fleeing its cities for other states. Philadelphia lost more than 32,000 people to domestic migration, while Allegheny County saw just over 12,000 cross state lines.
The data isn’t anything new. Pennsylvania has long struggled to retain workers and young families that chase better economic opportunities elsewhere. As the retired population continues to swell, the shrinking pool of working-age residents places strain on the state’s tax revenue and its ability to provide services – from public assistance programs to state police funding to road and bridge repair – that further the economy’s downward spiral.
Acting Revenue Secretary Pat Browne told lawmakers last week that federal stimulus funds combined with tax revenues “has allowed us to be at a place where our fiscal position has never been.”
But the trends that stifle the state’s growth and impact its spending have not changed, he said. The administration’s budget proposal suggests draining the state’s $5.6 billion rainy day fund over the next four years to invest in programs and services that would hopefully increase revenues.
Some of the touted ideas include offering tax credits to residents pursuing in-demand careers and the expansion of a child care tax credit modeled after the federal program, that could encourage workers to settle in Pennsylvania permanently.
If that doesn’t happen, however, state will face a multi-billion deficit that will be difficult to fill without tax increases or program cuts, The Center Square previously reported.
Meanwhile, sunnier states to the south and west continue to welcome more and more residents every year, data shows.
Nationwide, counties in Arizona, Florida and Texas saw the biggest increases. Dr. Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s population division, said overall the country’s population growth and declines are returning to prepandemic patterns, with several large counties rebounding from the losses experienced between 2020 and 2021.
“Some urban counties, such as Dallas and San Francisco, saw domestic outmigration at a slower pace between 2021 and 2022, compared to the prior year,” she said. “Meanwhile, many counties with large universities saw their populations fully rebound this year as students returned.”