Census figures show continued slide in population
Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that Washington County’s gradual population loss continued in 2018.
The annual population estimates through July of last year show the county with 307 fewer people than lived in it at the same time in 2017, a loss of 0.5 percent. If the trend since 2010 continues next year, the county will be home to fewer than 60,000 people for the first time since 1974, according to Census data archived with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The county population peaked at 64,586 in 1983, the St. Louis fed data indicates.
The population decline is almost evenly split between deaths outnumbering births and more people moving out of the county than coming in.
The census data includes births, deaths and the net increase or decrease, and migration figures at the county level. For Washington County the data show 591 births and 743 deaths for a net decrease of 152, and indicates that a net of 22 people moved to the county as a result of international migration but a net 175 people left the county for other places for a net loss of 153.
In Ohio, births outnumbered deaths by 191,951. During the same one-year period, 204,665 more people moved away from Ohio to other parts of the U.S. than moved in, but a net of 169,396 moved to Ohio from other countries – “international migration,” as it’s termed by the Census Bureau. The bottom line is that the state’s total population increased by an estimated 152,685.
The dwindling population in the county affects everything from retail businesses to support for public facilities and enterprises such as school districts and local governments.
Marietta City Council President Josh Schlicher said the city has seen the population drop just like the county has.
“It’s definitely a concern, especially for the city’s tax base, but what’s interesting is that even though the population goes down, the (tax) revenue keeps going up over the last decade,” he said. Despite that, however, the median age of the population has continued going up, school enrollments are shrinking and the prospects for the future don’t currently show growth.
Schlicher said part of the problem in addressing the lack of growth, from the perspective of local government, is developing a coordinated approach.
“There are a lot of different avenues that can be taken,” he said. “We’ve dealt with multiple agencies in the county regarding development – programs for seniors, for teens and youth, but it’s not just the local government that has a play in that, it’s a type of activity that takes a collaborative effort across the spectrum of institutions and agencies to make anything work.”
Schlicher said he has seen the problem of who or what is going to take the lead role in numerous gatherings about economic development and the future of the area.
“I’ve sat in on meetings, heard a lot of ideas from people from all walks of life, from businesses, elected officials, retired people, and we have to harness that and make it happen,” he said. “Multiple agencies need to work together to address this problem, and we need to make sure someone’s in charge of getting it taken care of, that’s the biggest thing, putting it into action.”
Washington County Commissioner David White said communities everywhere are facing the same problem, much of which is demographic.
“It’s absolutely a concern, you always want to have businesses that bring people into the area so you can provide services, but the reality is, when I was born in the 1950s, elementary schools were being built everywhere because of the baby boom, and when I was growing up, same thing with single family houses, now it’s nursing homes,” he said. “Now, this generation is dying off and there aren’t enough people to replace us.”
The sheer numbers in the baby boom drove the economy, he said.
“It’s different now,” he said. “It’s a reality people all over the country are facing. Except for a few booming areas, most are experiencing population decline, and for many it’s worse than ours.”
U.S. Census Bureau, July 2018 1-year population estimates
•Estimated change: -307 (0.5 percent).
•Change: -1,626 (-2.6 percent).
•Total population change: 152,685.
•Natural increase (births minus deaths): 191,951.
•International migration: 169,396.
•Domestic migration: -204,665.
.Net migration: -35,269.
Parkersburg-Vienna Metropolitan Statistical Area (Wood, Wirt and Pleasant counties, W.Va., and Washington County, Ohio)
•Change: -2,635 (-2.8 percent).
•Change in rank, U.S. MSAs: from No. 364 to No. 366, out of a total of 383.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, July 2018 population estimates.