Hamilton County Posted Largest Population Gain in Cincinnati MSA in 2013

New population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week show that Hamilton County’s population slide has ended and that the Cincinnati metropolitan region remains the largest in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana with more than 2.1 million people.

In 2013 Hamilton County added more than 2,000 new people – making it the biggest gainer in the 15-county tri-state region. Warren County came in a close second with just under 2,000 new people.

Boone and Kenton Counties in Kentucky and Clermont County in Ohio also posted population gains of more than 1,000 people. Meanwhile five rural counties in the region saw their population decline, with Brown County in Ohio losing the most at an estimated 165 people.

The Cincinnati region as a whole is estimated to have added just over 8,000 residents in 2013.

Cincinnati MSA Population Changes 2010-2013

Over the past year, the region also posted gains in terms of international migration, but saw continued losses for domestic migration. Net migration to the Cincinnati region was actually negative, but thanks to births significantly outpacing deaths, the region was able to post its overall population gain.

When compared to Columbus and Cleveland, Cincinnati lags in terms of international migration numbers.

Columbus, meanwhile, is the only region out of the big three in Ohio that posted gains in both international and domestic migration – making it the only metropolitan area in the state to have positive net migration in 2013.

Regionally, Hamilton County was the only county to see more than 1,000 new international migrants. But at the same time, Hamilton County also recorded the largest domestic migration loss of any county in the region.

While most all of Hamilton County’s population gains can be attributed to births exceeding deaths, approximately half of Warren County’s gain can be attributed to its positive net migration over the past year. Aside from Warren County, only four other counties in the region experienced positive net migration.

Ohio Metropolitan Region 2030 Population Projection

The population estimates continue to look bad for Cleveland, which recorded regional population loss once again. Since the 2010 Decennial Census, Cleveland has posted average annual population losses of 0.2%, while Cincinnati and Columbus have posted gains of 0.4% and 1.1% respectively.

Should these trends hold over the coming years, Columbus will follow Cincinnati’s lead and pass Cleveland, once the state’s most populous metropolitan region, in terms of overall population by 2017.

Due to the faster growth taking place in Columbus, it will also eventually catch and pass Cincinnati as the state’s most populous region a decade from now. Cleveland, meanwhile, will see its regional population dip below two million in 15 years.

A long forecasted but yet realized trend appears to be taking hold in the second decade of the new millennium. Instead of cities bleeding population to suburban areas, rural areas are now losing their population to suburban areas while cities hold on to their core population while also continuing to attract international and some domestic migrants from suburban and rural areas.

The Decennial Census in 2010 was a splash of cold water for many cities, including Cincinnati, who had thought that they had already reversed decades of population loss. Perhaps these new trends, now being realized, will finally result in the population gain so many cities have been longing for in 2020.

  • EDG

    Domestic migration should really be the focus over births and international migration

    • matimal

      Cleveland’s are MUCH worse and St. Louis’ and Pittsburgh’s are moderately so. Everything is relative.

    • You are right. Cleveland’s are worse. The 2013 estimates show that Cleveland had a net migration of -1,883 while Cincinnati had a net migration of -568. Columbus, meanwhile, had a net migration of +10,438.

      The international migration numbers for all three are virtually the same, but the domestic migration numbers for Columbus (+5,749) are extremely different from both Cleveland (-5,581) and Cincinnati (-3,894).

  • Matt Jacob

    I like that Cranley is starting the converstaion on incentivizing immigrants to come here, which should help boost out numbers if something meaningful can come from the talk.


    Any idea what Columbus is doing well that we could emulate? OSU is a big magnet, but they must be doing other things as well to get that higher population growth.

    • Mark Christol

      Seriously? Cranley throwing open the doors to our slums to immigrants reeks of, at least, classism if not racism.

    • EDG

      That’s not exactly what he’s talking about, but he’s just copying what other mayors and governors have been advocating. Do you really expect his stream of consciousness governing to produce an original policy thought?

    • Matt Jacob

      Immigrants are the backbone of America and histrically has been the source of population growth that has propelled us forward. Growing population in only natural ways (ie more births than deaths) isn’t enough and I’m glad he recognizes what these population numbers are saying. Bigotry, racism, and classism are things imposed on immigrant populations as exisiting populations adjust to differences in culture.

    • matimal

      Immigrants can’t vote and therefore won’t vote for his opposition, which they would certainly do if they could vote. That’s why we has no problem with immigrants. He’ll do everything he can to discourage actual American citizens from becoming legal residents of the city of cincinnati.

    • Saying you want to attract immigrants and actually doing it are two different things. Cincinnati leaders have long been talking about talent retention, but have failed to accomplish anything meaningful as evidenced by the region’s awful domestic migration numbers.

      I think things like Mark Mallory actually going to other countries and making appearances with leaders there is quite helpful in this kind of process. Because quite frankly, Cincinnati doesn’t even register or exist to the vast majority of the world’s population.

    • Mark Christol


    • Matt Jacob

      I completely agree that it’s easier said than done, but having an actual immigration plan for our city/region would be a good second step. It takes both outward promotion like Mallory did vocally as well as a safe landing pad once they get here in order to both attract and retain immigrant in our region. To me it sounds like Cranley is focusing on the latter, which could work well coming after the first steps that Mallory took to get our name out there and change the negative narritive after the riots. We’re beginning to be known for something other than WKRP nationally, but internationally we aren’t even much of a dot yet on the US map. The more immigrants that we can get to come AND stay here; the more it will snowball into larger population gains.

    • Neil Clingerman

      Even getting the world choir games here was a great idea made even better by the fact that majority of teams were from China. Now groups of young people in China will remember Cincinnati – very good marketing for the city especially due to the growing importance of that country in the world economy.

    • subocincy

      No doubt about it–Columbus has emerged a powerful contender in the “Battle of the 3-C’s,”and rightfully so. Nevertheless, discussing the real reasons for that city’s ascendency absolutely must include that it’s Ohio’s capital city, home of the governor, and laden with tax-dollars from both Cleveland and Cincinnati. (To do otherwise is closing your eyes.)

      Needless to say, this adoration of the “Columbus Success Story” has long-ago become a contentious, combative topic on several other forums, namely City-Data, City-vs-City, and UrbanOhio. As for myself (being the instigator who I am on several of these forums), I can insure anyone here that’s it unrealistic and unfair to attempt to delve into the success of Cbus w/o examining its strangle-hold on Ohio tax-dollars. (If our state’s capital was sitting somewhere over on Elm Street near City Hall, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, now would we?)

    • matimal

      Why “rightfully so”?

    • subocincy

      ^ Oh you of little faith… Columbus has become our media darling and shining star, our refuge for immigrants from afar and model of urban delight. Such shiny new infill abounding, so many new eateries for young professionals to gather and flaunt their status, so mighty a university turning everything it touches into gold. Right now this, our Ohio Emerald City, owns the day…

    • Neil Clingerman

      Its sad, but Columbus really does have the best infill in Ohio – it does the most with the least. Imagine if Cincy would do half of what Columbus did with 10x the assets.

    • charles ross

      But the other advantage that Cbus has, along with others have over the Nati, is a county and a city that are essentially one gov. Makes a difference.

    • matimal

      It’s flat. Very flat.

    • I have long speculated that Columbus is the city in Ohio where people from rural areas feel comfortable migrating to. Cleveland and Cincinnati are too dramatic of changes for many of these people. That’s my theory at least.

      The numbers show that Columbus is adding population at such a better clip because of domestic migration rates. While Cincinnati (-3,894) and Cleveland (-5,581) saw negative domestic migration by several thousand people, Columbus (+5,749) has seen and continues to add several thousand people from domestic migration each year.

      Think about this. Columbus added more than 10,000 people from their domestic and international migration rates in 2013, without factoring in their births/deaths, while Cincinnati added just over 8,000 people total. Columbus is clearly more attractive to current residents making a move. That’s the difference right now.

    • Matt Jacob

      Not a bad theory. Having lived in both Cbus and Cincy and having family near Cleveland, I think it’s that there is less parochialism in Cbus than in the other two C’s since the statehouse brings in people from all the rural corners. When traveling some people think Cincinnati is just a farm town, but in reality Columbus is much closer to one (even thought they’re all urban cities).

      The flatness is also a Columbus asset we can’t copy. But more importantly I think that the newness of their city vs the other two is a big asset which Cincy is competiting with OK to a degree in the northern suburbs (as far as I know Cleveland isn’t really building new to much of a degree). Sure there is state money that ends up staying in Cbus, but I think it’s just more visible since they don’t need to use their share to fix legacy problems that older cities like Cincy and Cleveland have. For example how much money are we spending to fix our legacy sewer system? Think if it could have been used to rebuild streets or other physical infrastructure instead so you could see the money being put to work in a larger area.

      My question was more about any programs that Columbus is using to get these higher migrations to their city vs ours besides the sort of built-in advantages/disadvantages of each city. Are they doing anything special to attract international migration? How does the international migration compare between the 3Cs? Are they doing anything special to attract people from other parts of the state other than OSU’s pull?

    • Neil Clingerman

      This is literally the first thing I’ve heard from Cranley which I can wholeheartedly support. Details are in the execution however.

    • Well, Columbus did beat us to form-based codes…

  • Steven Fields

    Can anyone tell me why has the Cincinnati metro gained almost 10 more jobs than the Columbus area yet is still outgrown by population by a good margin? How can that keep up? Will Cincinnati have more jobs than people????

    • I don’t have the data on the jobs numbers, but I would suspect that Ohio State’s huge enrollment probably helps. Can you point me to the jobs data you’re referencing?

    • Steven Fields

      Cincinnati added 27,481 the past year.


      Columbus added 18,624 the past year.


      Do they even look at jobs when doing these estimates?

    • Well I don’t think that the addition or subtraction of jobs is directly correlated with population changes. Certainly it is indirectly related though.

      For example, since no place has full employment the addition of jobs often just lowers the unemployment rate or offsets the natural growth. Since the Cincinnati MSA added approximately 27,000 jobs last year and just 8,000 people, it would mean that those additional 19,000 jobs probably went to people already living in the region who were either unemployed or underemployed.

      It appears that Cincinnati’s unemployment rate fell nearly two full points last year while Columbus’ fell around one-and-a-half points. In terms of raw numbers, it looks like Cincinnati’s number of unemployed fell by about 20,000, while Columbus’ fell by 14,000. Seems to be within the range of what we’re discussing here.

    • Also FWIW, here is what the Census Bureau says about their methodology:

      “The Census Bureau develops county, metro and micro area population estimates by measuring population change since the most recent census. The Census Bureau uses births, deaths, administrative records and survey data to develop estimates of population. For more detail regarding the methodology, see http://www.census.gov/popest/methodology/.”

  • Mark Christol