New Castle News

Closer Look

April 13, 2013

John K. Manna: Western Pennsylvania’s population drop persists

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County is losing people, but it’s not alone.

The counties surrounding Lawrence, with the exception of Butler County, also have been experiencing population declines.

The most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau put Lawrence County’s estimated population at 89,871 as of July 1, 2012. It represented a drop of 1,237 people, or 1.4 percent, since the 2010 census.

Only five other counties in Pennsylvania had larger percent losses.

However, the most striking results of these estimates are not really new, but show the continuation of a trend.

Seven of the top 10 counties in percent population growth were in eastern Pennsylvania. In contrast, eight of the top 10 counties in percent population loss were in western Pennsylvania.

Included in the calculations to arrive at the estimare are births and deaths. With a few exceptions, most counties in the eastern part of the state showed births exceeding deaths. It’s a big reason those counties are showing faster growth than counties in the west.

But it also indicates that the population tends to be younger overall in the eastern counties. More people are moving in to those areas as compared to the west.

It may be small consolation to Lawrence County residents who may believe the county’s best years are behind it, but other western counties are in the same boat.

People can blame local politicians over the years for the gradual decline in population. And some deserve blame for lacking any vision. A lot of the decline, though, deals with a changing industrial climate in the northeast, particularly with the steel industry.

Obviously, with other western counties experiencing losses, this is not just a local problem.

There are signs, however, at least in New Castle, of potential growth with the arrival of Refresh Dental’s corporate offices and other new establishments in the downtown and some new and growing industries.

Nonetheless, as I’ve written before, the erosion of population in the west while the east grows is something that should be of concern to western Pennsylvania legislators.


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