Population in 2000: 2,896,016
Population in 2010: 2,695,598
Decline: 6.9%
Chicago was easily the biggest U.S. city to lose numbers within the past decade and the biggest surprise after holding steady since 2006. The city's median household income was up almost 25% in that same period and the city's GDP rose from $498 billion to $508 billion in the past five years (including a nearly $15 billion recession-fueled drop-off in 2008). What's the problem?

The suburbs play a big role, as Chicagoland grew 4% since 2000 while the city itself shrank. Suburban growth is part of the reason the growth of the Hispanic population dwindled from 38.1% from 1990 to 2000 to just 3.3% in the past 10 years and why the black population has dropped 17.2% during the same period.

It also has a lot to do with who's moving in, as lakefront apartments and condos in Bucktown and Ukranian Village aren't being filled by families, but by single young professionals and empty-nesters. That's bringing in more expendable income, but shrinking households and driving up the median age from 31.5 in 2000 to 32.9 today.

It also means that cash has to go somewhere, which is why residents who answered Travel+Leisure's America's Favorite Cities survey still rank it No. 4 in the country for museums and galleries such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pilsen art district, No. 4 for theaters such as Steppenwolf and No. 4 for big-name restaurants such as Alinea and Charlie Trotter's. There are still great bars and restaurants within walking distance, five major sports teams to root for and the Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Jazz Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival every summer. There are just fewer people to share them with, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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