Some news from Census 2020
If you have been in Greater Cleveland long enough, you probably have heard that the city of Cleveland was once home to nearly a million people, and that its population is now just a fraction of that. In fact, the population of Cleveland at the time of the 2020 census was 372,624, or 40.7 percent of its 1950 high of 914,808.
While this loss of population may seem extreme, it is comparable to what has happened in the other older industrial cities that Cleveland is most closely related to, including Buffalo (now at 48 percent of its highest ever population), Detroit (at 34.6 percent), and Pittsburgh (at 44.8 percent). All four of these cities reached their population peaks in 1950; among them, only Detroit has never experienced significant population loss at the regional or metropolitan level, and only Buffalo has recently begun to regain population within its municipal boundaries.
Like many other landlocked inner suburbs, Cleveland Heights and University Heights are both less populous than they were at their peaks in 1960, but their population declines have been less severe than in the central city. University Heights registered a small population gain between the 2010 and 2020 censuses (13,539 to 13,914), and Cleveland Heights saw a smaller-than-expected drop, from 46,121 to 45,312. In 2020, University Heights had 83.6 percent of its all-time high of 16,641, and Cleveland Heights had 73.3 percent of its maximum 61,813. Taken together, the cities’ 2020 population of 59,226, down slightly from 59,660 in 2010, was equal to 76 percent of their combined 1960 total of 78,454.
Among the cities that border Cleveland Heights or University Heights, East Cleveland has lost the highest percentage of its population. It had only 13,792 inhabitants in 2020, or 34.4 percent of the 40,047 it had in 1950. Beachwood, at 14,040 (up from 11,953), is the only neighboring city that reached an all-time high in 2020. Shaker Heights, which registered a small gain between the last two censuses, was at 80.7 percent of its maximum, and South Euclid, which saw a slight drop, was at 74 percent. On the other side of town, Lakewood, which saw a population decrease from 52,131 to 50,942, had 72.2 percent of the 70,509 it had in 1930.
Cuyahoga County in its entirety has also lost significant population since its peak, which came in 1970. The 1,264,817 residents counted in 2020 equaled 73.5 percent of the 1,721,300 counted 50 years earlier. The county’s percentage is virtually the same as that of Cleveland Heights, though the county’s overall drop took place over 50 years, rather than 60. Suburban Cuyahoga County, defined as everything in the county except Cleveland, had a slight uptick in population between 2010 and 2020, growing from 883,307 to 892,193. This was 91.7 percent of the 1970 peak of 970,397.
The accompanying table provides some detail. Additional census information is available from the U.S. Bureau of the Census at data.census.gov.
Vince Reddy is a former FutureHeights board member and a 25-year resident of Cleveland Heights. He was the city's zoning administrator from 1996 to 2005.