Population in 2000: 334,563
Population in 2010: 305,704
For a city with a population whose growth started slowing in 1910 and has been outright declining since 1960, an 8.6% drop not only isn't bad -- it's the lowest loss rate the city's seen in 50 years. It's not ideal, but compared with Rust Belt neighbors such as Detroit, Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, Pittsburgh is not only surviving but thriving.
The city's GDP grew from $103 billion five years ago to $111.6 billion last year and held steady through much of the recession, thanks largely to its transition from manufacturing dependence to a multifaceted approach to economic stability. Carnegie-Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and its medical center provide most of the job base, and while U.S. Steel (X - Get Report) and PPG Industries (PPG - Get Report) still provide an industrial presence, finance companies such as PNC Financial Services (PNC - Get Report) and 1,600 tech companies including Google (GOOG) are taking the city out of the steel age.
There's still a chance it could go wrong, as Pitt's closure of a local hospital last year reminds us, but the city's got one big advantage going for it: youth. The median age in Pittsburgh dropped from 35.5 in 2000 to 33.2 last year, and it's not just because more students are going to Pitt, Duquesne and the seven universities within a walk of downtown. It means more of those kids are home-grown product; the Chicago Federal Reserve noted that Pittsburgh's percentage of adults who graduated high school jumped from 55th in the country to third, while its rank for college graduates matriculated from 69th to 37th.It's not a bad place to party, either. The South Side, the Strip and Station Square are still packed with bars and the young crowd that fills them, and -- as BestPlaces.net found out last year when it named Pittsburgh one of the best places to move to -- they're paying about 12.2% less for their beers than the rest of the country, thanks to a low cost of living and low average home prices. While it's still better known for Pittsburgh Steelers football, Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, Iron City Beer and french fry-stuffed Primanti Brothers sandwiches, institutions such as the Andy Warhol Museum remind newcomers that the Steel City's not to be underestimated.