The United States recently has gone through one of the slowest population growth periods on record. From the 2010 census through the 2020 census, the number of U.S. residents rose only 7.4%, the second lowest rate in American history. Illinois, Mississippi, and West Virginia had fewer residents in 2020 than they did in 2010. Some of this very modest growth rate was triggered by COVID-19 deaths. Additionally, immigration rates were extremely low.
Though its population grew during COVID-19, the smallest city in America, as defined by how metropolitan statistical areas are measured, is Carson City, Nevada.
The decade-long slow growth continues. Approximately 73% of U.S. counties (2,297) posted declines in population from July 2020 through July 2021, according to the new U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 estimates of population released late March.
Aside from county data, the release included 384 metropolitan statistical areas and 543 micropolitan statistical areas. Among MSAs, the researchers noted that 213 of the 384 metro areas experienced natural population decrease — more deaths than births — in 2021. The highest levels were in Pittsburgh (-10,838); Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida (-9,291); and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida (-6,643). (And these are the 16 states where the population shrank since the pandemic started.)
MSAs are determined by a definition created by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Each has at least one urban area and includes the surrounding population. An MSA must have a minimum population of 50,000. Essentially, MSAs are America’s cities.
To determine the smallest cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on population from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates program. MSAs were ranked based on population estimates for July 2021. Population estimates for July 2020 also came from the same source.
A fair number of the smaller MSAs posted declines in population in the past year. The populations of Danville, Illinois, and Enid, Oklahoma, dropped more than 1%.
The smallest MSA, Carson City, had a July 2021 population of 58,993. Compared to the July 2020 population of 58,677, that is an increase of 0.54%. Carson City is located on Nevada’s border with California, just south of Reno. (Find out if Carson City is among America’s 50 best cities to live.)