Columbus greatly outpaces the rest of Ohio in population and growth

Data: United States Census Bureau; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Columbus carries the Buckeye State in terms of growth and economic well-being.

Driving the news: The increase in factors such as population, workers, household income, and home values ​​in our metro area has far exceeded all other regions in Ohio between 2000 and 2020, per a report from the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

Why is this important: While Columbus is Ohio’s MVP, he skews statewide statistics that overshadow a stagnant and aging population.

  • This leads to a “Tale of Two States” – also the title of the report.

Main takeaways:

  • Appearances can be deceiving. Ohio’s overall population increased by 3% over the two-decade period. But with the Columbus metropolitan area removed, the state actually saw a net loss of 1% — or about 100,000 residents, according to census data.
  • This means fewer workers. Ohio’s labor force shrank by 91,000 workers, while central Ohio gained 215,000.
  • Incomes are lagging in all areas. Our median household income was $65,044 in 2020, an increase of 50%, while all other metropolises only increased by 38%. Both still trail a national average of 55%.

👀 Mind-blowing stat: If Columbus’ population growth between 2000 and 2020 was its own city — with 177,600 residents — it would be the sixth largest in the state, just behind Dayton.

Enlarge: All areas outside of Columbus have seen a steep population decline among those under 54.

The context: A changing economy explains most of this geographic disparity. Most Ohioans live in a “legacy town” built around a manufacturing sector that peaked years ago.

  • These 22 cities — ranging in size from Cleveland to Chillicothe — are characterized by aging residents, marginal demographic change and slow income growth.
  • Central Ohio, on the other hand, is bucking the trend due to recent development and a labor market centered around education, healthcare, technology, and government services.
  • Legacy cities “are home to a significant concentration of jobs, residents, and anchor institutions that positively impact the state’s economy” and policies should be tailored to their specific needs, the report says.

And after: The authors of the study recommend improving municipal services, modernizing historic infrastructure and zoning, promoting development through subsidies and investing in public transport.

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