NEW YORK (MainStreet) — We’ve got to hand it to the people of Grand Rapids, Mich.: they won’t stand idly by when they feel they’ve been slighted.
Back in January, MainStreet published a piece titled “America’s Dying Cities,” which featured 10 cities in the U.S. that experienced declines in population between 2000 and 2009, using census data, and Grand Rapids just cracked the list, coming in at number 10.
After the story was published on our site (and later posted on Newsweek.com, with which we had a content-sharing partnership), several residents began a campaign to show that the city was anything but “dying.”
Multiple Facebook groups launched with titles like “Grand Rapids Michigan Is Alive & Kickin,” and residents including the city’s mayor fought back against the claim in their local papers. Now, several months later, the people of Grand Rapids have turned to YouTube to highlight the city’s vitality.
In the video above, dozens if not hundreds of the city’s residents march through the streets lip-syncing the words to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” with its fitting chorus of “this will be the day that I die.” It’s a remarkable video that truly shows off the sense of community and pride of Grand Rapids residents and we at MainStreet were genuinely moved by it.
So we’d like to take this opportunity to briefly clear up any lingering confusions about the story’s methodology and purpose. The rankings of our original article were based on two criteria: changes to the overall population of every U.S. city in the past decade with at least 100,000 residents, and the decline in population of residents 18 and under, both of which were based on census data.
These data points and the rankings were intended to provide a snapshot of the U.S. cities that not only saw their overall populations shrink between 2000 and 2010, but which also have lost the greatest number of young people, a factor that could limit the city’s future population growth.
As we noted in the original piece, because the numbers are based on a 10-year period, they may not always paint the most up-to-date picture. New Orleans, for example (spoiler alert), ranked as the #1 dying city, due to the number of residents who were forced to move away after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, yet the city’s population has actually begun to grow again in recent years. Since the total population is still far below what it was in 2000, it tops the list.
That said, we stand firmly behind the methodology used in this study and believe it provides a valuable glimpse at population and demographic changes throughout the country. The results were in no way intended to pass judgment on the people or the quality of life in each of these cities.
The energetic response from Grand Rapids residents in producing all of the videos, articles and Facebook pages in support of their city should serve as proof that with a bit of energy and creativity, any shrinking city can band together to defy the demographics and show off its true vitality.
Other cities should take note.
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