Census Bureau report shows Erie's population is declining again


  • The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau put Erie's population at 92,957 people as of July 1, 2023.
  • City officials asked the Census Bureau to add 4,838 people to its 2020 count of 94,852 as part of its June 2023 challenge.

The latest information from the US Census Bureau once again paints a bleak picture for the city of Erie. The last time the city's population was this low, women weren't allowed to vote and there was no commercially licensed radio broadcast in America.

Both events occurred more than a century ago, in 1920, when 93,372 people called the city of Erie home.

The Census Bureau's latest population estimates put Erie's population at 92,957 people as of July 1, 2023. That's a 2% decline since the 2020 decennial census and the lowest figure in more than 100 years.

However, Erie Mayor Joe Schember's administration continues to await further details on a lawsuit it filed with the Census Bureau to challenge the 2020 decennial census count.

In November, city officials received encouraging news: The proposed population adjustment for group quarters, which includes group homes, prisons, shelters, detention centers and senior living facilities, was adopted and the city's baseline data will soon be updated for annual population estimates.

More: Erie County is experiencing continued population decline. How many residents has it lost recently?

Why Erie disputes the census data

Renee Lamis, chief of staff for the Schember administration, said the 2023 population estimate for Erie does not include the revised numbers. They will likely be taken into account when the federal agency releases 2024 estimates next year.

City officials asked the Census Bureau to add 4,838 people to its 2020 count of 94,852 as part of its June 2023 challenge. However, there was no indication from the agency whether all or just a portion of the underpaid residents reported as part of the city's challenge would be part of the overhaul.

It is also unclear how the revision will affect the current estimated losses of almost 1,900 people since 2020.

“This current estimate does not yet reflect our challenge,” Lamis said in an email to the Erie Times-News. “In addition, we are working with our refugee resettlement agencies to obtain updated figures for recent years. Given the recent influx of refugees since 2021/2022, we want to ensure that population estimates are accurate.”

The population losses were largely attributed to residents leaving the area for other parts of Pennsylvania or other states and deaths exceeding births.

In March, the Census Bureau released statewide data showing another year of declines for Erie County. According to the estimates, the county lost 3,305 residents from April 2020 to July 2023, reducing the number from 270,876 to 267,571 last year.

Other cities in Pennsylvania are also losing population

Erie was among seven of the ten largest cities in Pennsylvania to experience population decline in 2023. Philadelphia, Allentown, Reading, Scranton, Lancaster and Harrisburg also saw declines. Pittsburgh and York grew slightly, while Bethlehem grew more than 3% since 2020, adding 2,500 new residents.

Last year, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania released a report detailing long-term population projections through 2050. Urban areas, particularly in southeastern Pennsylvania around Philadelphia, are expected to provide a boost to a state that will see losses in rural areas over the next three decades as the baby boomer generation reaches life expectancy. Erie County is also expected to see slight growth, according to the agency, which is a branch of the General Assembly.

Matthew Rink can be reached at or on X at @ETNRink.

Anna Harden

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