Columbus vastly outpacing the rest of Ohio in population, growth
Columbus is carrying the Buckeye State in growth and economic well-being.
Driving the news: Our metro area's rise in factors like population, workers, household income and home values significantly outpaced all other areas of Ohio between 2000-2020, per a report from the Greater Ohio Policy Center.
Why it matters: While Columbus is Ohio's MVP, it's skewing statewide statistics that overshadow a stagnant, aging population.
- This is leading to a "Tale of Two States" — also the report's title.
- Looks can be deceiving. Ohio's overall population grew 3% during the two-decade time period. But with the Columbus metro area removed, the state actually recorded a net loss of 1% — or about 100,000 residents, census data shows.
- That means fewer workers. Ohio's labor force decreased by 91,000 workers, while Central Ohio gained 215,000.
- Incomes lag across the board. Our median household income was $65,044 in 2020, a 50% increase, while all other metros only rose by 38%. Both still trail a national average of 55%.
👀 Eye-popping stat: If Columbus' population growth between 2000-2020 were its own city — with 177,600 residents — it would be the state's sixth-largest, just behind Dayton.
Zoom in: All areas besides Columbus experienced a large population drop in residents under 54.
- Young people are moving to Central Ohio for work and education — including Tyler and Alissa — or out of state entirely.
Context: A changing economy explains most of this geographic disparity. Most Ohioans live in a "legacy city" built around a manufacturing sector that peaked years ago.
- Those 22 cities — ranging in size from Cleveland to Chillicothe — are characterized by aging residents, marginal population change and slow income growth.
- Central Ohio, meanwhile, bucks the trend due to recent development and a job market centered on education, health care, tech 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.
What's next: The study's authors recommend enhancing municipal services, modernizing historic infrastructure and zoning, promoting development through grants and investing in public transportation.
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