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Fastest Growing and Fastest Shrinking Small Cities in the U.S.

For a variety of reasons, Americans are on the move.

Whether or not the pandemic has led to a surge of city dwellers heading to the suburbs is still up for debate, but even before the virus, Americans were on the move.

Last year, the South, especially Florida, experienced a net population gain from those coming in from other regions of the U.S., according to the census bureau, and Los Angeles County had the highest number of people moving out, but also had the highest number moving in.

Population had declined steadily in Illinois for six consecutive years by 2019, according to Illinois Policy, the decline caused almost entirely by Illinoisans moving to other states. At the same time, the population of Utah is growing, reaching 3 million in 2015 and projected to reach 4 million in 2032, the University of Utah says.

Areas that are growing the most tend to be in states experiencing strong jobs growth while the areas shrinking the most tend to be located in states where labor markets have faltered, according to Illinois Policy. Taxes and correspondingly weak labor and housing markets have been the primary reasons Illinois has struggled to draw people.

To find out which small U.S. cities are growing and shrinking the fastest, AdvisorSmith, a business insurance research site, examined the population growth in 474 small, incorporated cities, towns, and villages during the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, based upon population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The cities have populations between 50,000 and 100,000, and AdvisorSmith calculated the compounded annual growth rate in population growth during the five-year period, then ranked the cities based upon their growth rates.

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Cities in the West and South dominate the list of fastest-growing small cities while cities in the Midwest were the majority of the shrinking cities, especially Illinois suburbs of Chicago.

Although many of the shrinking cities are places in economic decline, the top 50 included some prosperous cities, such as Palo Alto, Calif., (No. 40) that are likely shrinking due to a lack of new housing and poor housing affordability, AdvisorSmith reports.

Utah has been enjoying a strong economy and high birthrate, and Herriman, Utah, with a growth rate of 12.5%, is the fastest growing small city. The rapid growth has been a challenge with traffic, infrastructure, and taxes, among other issues.

Here are the 15 fastest growing small cities in the U.S., followed by the 15 small cities that are shrinking the fastest.