COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio’s child population is shrinking, but the City of Columbus seems to be bucking that trend.
Relative to other U.S. cities, Columbus saw the sixth-largest increase in the number of children living within its city limits from 2010 to 2020, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The state as a whole, however, hasn’t seen the same growth.
“A large portion of that decline is happening where manufacturing used to be very predominant, what we call the Rust Belt,” said Kim Eckhart, interim director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. “If you look across those northern cities – from New York to Chicago – that area of Ohio is what is kind of driving the decline.”
From 2010 to 2020, the number of Ohio residents under the age of 18 decreased by about 5%, or by nearly 139,000 children, the Annie E. Casey Foundation said, citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Ohio was home to just under 2.7 million children in 2010, and a decade later, that number fell below 2.6 million.
Ohio’s capital city has the opposite problem: a population boom, and with it, more children. In the 2020 U.S. Census, Columbus gained more than 15,800 young residents, a 9% jump from its child population a decade earlier.
As northern Ohio cities like Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown feel the effects of a dwindling manufacturing industry, the central Ohio region is increasingly becoming a prime location for families to settle down, Eckhart said, with higher education, financial and government industries dominating the area.
“We just have a really talented workforce to be able to bring those companies in and they can be confident that they can find the workforce that they need,” Eckhart said.
Eckhart said Ohio is not alone in seeing dwindling numbers of children. Nationwide, children are on the decline, too, making up about 36% of the country’s total population in 1960 but only 22.1% six decades later, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Parents are opting to have children later in life, and when they do, Eckhart said U.S. infrastructure – relative to other advanced democracies across the globe – is not always equipped to support them.
“We simply don’t have those supports available for parents, and I think that shows, that reflects in people having fewer children,” Eckhart said. “It’s expensive, it’s difficult to find childcare, and healthcare is quite expensive. All those things add up, and families are making the best economic decision that they can.”
As Columbus witnesses a child population boom and Ohio overall sees the opposite, Eckhart said it will be up to local and state leaders to determine how the shifting demographics affect everyday life, from the number of kids in a classroom to the number of workers available at companies like Intel.
“It just depends on the community,” she said.