Birmingham is no longer the most populated city in Alabama

Huntsville now No. 1, followed by Birmingham then Montgomery
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 5:02 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Birmingham has been the largest city in Alabama for decades, but that’s not the case anymore after the results of the 2020 U.S. Census were released Thursday.

Huntsville is now the most populated city in the state and Birmingham is barely ahead of Montgomery in population.

City and county leaders all say this isn’t surprising. The population trends have been going in that direction. The numbers released from the U.S. Census Thursday show Huntsville now has a population of 215,006. Birmingham is now the second most-populated city in the state with 200,733 residents and Montgomery comes in third with 200,603.

A University of Alabama expert on demographics research said there is still some good news for Birmingham.

“Birmingham lost about 5.4% of the population, however, when you compare that to between 2000 and 2010 or even 1990 and 2000 when the city was losing between 30-20,000 people per decade. In the last decade the city lost 12,000,” said UA Director of Demographic Research Nyesha Black.

The head of the Birmingham City Council said this is a wakeup call and there is some concern.

“It affects us in our federal allocation. We will be asking the mayor and the finance department what is that going to mean to us in federal dollars,” said Birmingham City Council President William Parker.

A Jefferson County Commissioner said she is not surprised at the loss of population.

“We have the highest sewer rates in the United States. You got to look at that. It’s 85% of the people on the sewer. All of Birmingham is on the sewer.” said Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson.

Tyson said Birmingham continues to struggle with concerns about crime, education, and affordable housing.

Another Jefferson County Commissioner congratulated Huntsville, but said despite the loss of population, the county - including Birmingham - is the economic engine of Alabama.

“The GDP of Huntsville or Madison County, Montgomery, and Mobile combined does not match that of Jefferson County,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons.

All agreed Birmingham can come back to the top position in ten years, but it will take work and investment to get more people willing to stay in the Magic City.

Parker believed it’s time to attack some of the issues facing the city such as education and crime.

“We have to make sure we work with the Birmingham school system and other partners, educational partners. Make sure we address crime,” Parker said.

Tyson said Birmingham has a lot to offer and lure people here to live if the city would just market those points more to younger people getting out of college.

“Giving them opportunities to actually come and start their businesses and start their families here. Birmingham is a beautiful city,” Tyson said.

Ammons said the city can turn it around by continuing to build on recent efforts downtown like around Railroad Park.

“You are seeing a large bit of that with what’s going on around Railroad Park and the redevelopment there. There is a number of apartments, student housing, the tech community and eco-system that is being built there,” Ammons said.

Black said the city has slowed the loss of population, but now is the time to build on that with future improvements.

“I think if the city continues to invest in the type of amenities to draw people, such as a healthy lifestyle. Good school system. Great entertainment. Great housing options,” Black said.

As well as job opportunities. Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement Friday they are still analyzing the census information, but he believes Birmingham is a diverse community and economically continues to lead the state of Alabama. Woodfin believed working with the entire metro area will continue to benefit the Magic City.

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