Study reveals 13 Alabama locations at risk of becoming ‘ghost towns’ by 2100

According to a recent study, Oak Hill, a small town that was incorporated in Wilcox County in 1938, is projected to experience a population decline of nine residents by the year 2100.

The study’s findings suggest that Oak Hill, with its current population of 15, will experience a significant decline over the next 80 years, losing 60% of its residents. This projection highlights the profound impact that demographic changes can have on small towns like Oak Hill.

Oak Hill is not the only one facing this issue.

Experts at the University of Chicago-Illinois have compiled a study that predicts around 40 locations in Alabama will experience significant population decline.

Scientific American was the first to report on the study and the potential for these places to become virtual “ghost towns.”

According to the study, each of these cities, towns, or Census-designated places (CDP) is projected to have populations of less than 100 by the year 2100.

Thirteen out of the total forty regions are projected to experience a decline of fifty percent or more in their population.

    • Bakerhill: -61.8% to population of 81
    • Beatrice: -53.1% to 96
    • Belk: -54.6% to 85
    • Daviston: -60% to 70
    • Dayton: -53.6% to 13
    • Fitzpatrick: -58.2% to 33
    • Hissop: -64.3% to 75
    • Kellyton: -62.3% to 49
    • Myrtlewood: -56.3% to 31
    • Nanafalia: -52.6% to 36
    • Oak Hill: -53.3% to 6
    • Peterman: -58% to 37
    • Pine Apple: -62.5% to 54

By 2100, it is anticipated that an additional nine small towns in Alabama will experience a decline in population of at least 40%.

The populations of several other cities in Alabama are expected to undergo significant changes:

    • Anniston: 47% decline to 11,492
    • Bessemer: 25% decline to 19,765
    • Dothan: 38.8% growth to 99,211
    • Eufaula: 61.5% decline to 4,982
    • Gadsden: 28.9% decline to 24,274
    • Hoover: 32.7% growth to 123,588
    • Madison: 69.1% growth to 96,818
    • Northport: 56.5% growth to 49,017
    • Opelika: 42.5% growth to 44,448
    • Pelham: 49.6% growth to 36,598
    • Phenix City: 80.7% growth to 70,570
    • Prattville: 32.9% growth to 50,481
    • Selma: 56.8% decline to 7,809
    • Spanish Fort: 40.1% growth to 14,160
    • Sylacauga: 25.7% decline to 9,400
    • Troy: 34.6% growth to 42,007
    • Tuskegee: 20.1% decline to 7,547
    • Valley: 61.1% growth to 17,057
    • Vestavia Hills: 39.8% growth to 54,986
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Over the next eight decades, the four largest cities in Alabama are anticipated to experience significant population growth.

According to projections, Huntsville is anticipated to experience a significant increase of 45% in its population, reaching a total of 313,642 residents. Mobile is expected to closely follow with a projected growth rate of 44.9%, bringing its population up to 272,526.

Birmingham is expected to experience a significant population growth of 19.8%, reaching a total of 241,816 residents. Similarly, Montgomery’s population is projected to increase by 19.2%, reaching a total of 240,574 residents.

Nick Saban’s retirement is not expected to have a negative impact on Tuscaloosa. In fact, the city is projected to experience a significant growth of 59.8%, resulting in a total population of 160,141.

The researchers analyzed population data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau between 2000 and 2020 to understand the current trends in population.

After conducting their analysis, the researchers proceeded to input these projections into five potential future scenarios, each representing a distinct level of climate change impact.

In presenting their findings, the authors utilized the middle-of-the-road scenario. They also took into account factors such as income level, vehicle ownership, and the urban nature of a town.

The study analyzed a total of 593 cities, towns, and CDPs in Alabama.

In southern Alabama, four cities in Baldwin County are expected to experience significant population growth.

Foley’s population is projected to experience a significant surge of 81.2%, reaching a total of 37,043 residents. Similarly, Fairhope is expected to grow by 80% and reach a population of 40,684. Gulf Shores, on the other hand, is projected to see a 74.6% increase, bringing its population to 26,370. Orange Beach is also expected to grow by 68.7%, reaching a total of 13,744 residents.

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By 2100, the combined population of those four cities is projected to account for 50% of Baldwin County’s current population of 239,294.

According to the study, there are approximately 15,000 locations in the United States that are projected to experience a substantial decline in population by the year 2100.

Severe population growth and decline each pose unique challenges, as noted by the study’s authors.

The authors expressed concern about the significant decrease in population and its potential consequences. They highlighted the possibility of facing unprecedented challenges, which could result in disruptions to essential services such as transportation, access to clean water, electricity, and internet connectivity.

As the population continues to grow, resource-intensive suburban and periurban cities are expected to experience an increase in demand for resources. This could have a detrimental impact on depopulating areas, as their access to these valuable resources may be further diminished, exacerbating the challenges they already face.

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