What is Growth?
The city of Columbus has stepped out of the shadows of its Ohio siblings, Cleveland and Cincinnati, proving it’s a force to be reckoned with. Looking at population numbers, Columbus currently ranks 1st in Ohio, 2nd in the Midwest, and 14th in the country. This fate was achieved through an increase in population and land coverage throughout the years. For perspective, Columbus has grown from 370,000 residents in 1950 to an estimated 860,000 in 2016. Cleveland saw the reverse, however, as its population shrunk from nearly a million residents to 385,000 in the same timeframe.
Columbus is unique due to its ability to acquire surrounding communities through the years. By requiring areas that wanted future access to water and sewer services to agree to be annexed into the city, Columbus’s footprint expanded from 40 sq. miles to over 225 sq. miles over the past 70 years to cover a large portion of Franklin County. Cleveland’s corporate boundaries have remained relatively the same, however, making up 77 sq. miles of Cuyahoga County and posing the question of whether or not it’s fair game to compare growth between the two cities.
Let’s look at it from a different viewpoint. Looking at Thoughtwell’s DataByte, when comparing the 2016 populations of Columbus (using Columbus’s 1950 boundary) and Cleveland, we see that Cleveland would have around 160,000 more residents than Columbus. In fact, Columbus would fall from 1st in the state of Ohio, to 4th in terms of population. With a population of 227,000, the city would also drop from the 14th largest city in the nation to 98th.
Although annexation has attributed to Columbus’s growth, Cleveland and other Midwestern cities can point the finger at the original footprint of the city and utter the words “We’re not so different, you and I.”
You could also make the case that growth in the metropolitan area (MSA) is what truly matters; though even here we see Columbus’s MSA still outpaces Cleveland’s and is gaining on Cincinnati to become 1st in the state. Even so, some might still argue Columbus’s 10 county MSA has an advantage over Cleveland’s five counties (see Map 3).
All is fair in love and population growth, however. Just look at New York City’s consolidated efforts to maintain its status of the largest city in the country.