Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and the 30th most populous city in the country. It's also the center of the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis Metropolitan Statistical Area with a population of 1.57 million. In 2016, Milwaukee had a population exceeding 600,000.
Milwaukee is a very slowly growing city with a population estimated at 600,155 in 2016. Despite robust growth through the 1950s, Milwaukee has experienced negative growth since then, and it's only since the 2010 census that signs of growth have been evident, although growth has been small.
The Milwaukee metropolitan area is home to approximately 1.57 million people in 2016. 30% of the entire state's population lives in the 5-country metro area, with 10% of Wisconsin's population within the Milwaukee city limits.
Milwaukee Population and Diversity Statistics
38.3% of Milwaukee's population reports having African American ancestry, while 21% claim German descent. Other common ancestry groups in the city include Polish (8.8%), Irish (6.5%), Italian (3.6%) and English (2.8%).
The city of Milwaukee seems diverse, but the picture changes when you look at the county as a whole. Milwaukee County's population is 55% white, and the county's African American community is 27%. Only about 8% of the county's African American population lives outside the city limits.
Milwaukee is often seen as a very racially segregated city; some consider it the most segregated city in the country, along with Detroit, Michigan, including a 2002 issue of Jet Magazine.
The Milwaukee area was originally inhabited by several Native American tribes, with French traders and missionaries first passing through the region in the late 17th century. A trading post was established in 1785 by Alexis Laframboise. It's believed the word Milwaukee comes from either a Potawatomi or Ojibwe word meaning "gathering place by the water." For many years, the settlement's name was printed as "Milwaukie," until a newspaper changed it to its current spelling sometime in the 1830s.
In its early history, Milwaukee had a great rivalry with two neighboring towns, Juneautown, across the river, and Walker's Point. By the 1840s, the competition had grown, and there were battles between the town, culminating in the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845. Afterward, the towns were united and, in 1846, the City of Milwaukee was incorporated.
Milwaukee began to proliferate with an influx of immigrants, especially those from Germany who made their way here from Wisconsin. Milwaukee continued its rapid growth, reaching a height of 741,000 in 1960 before beginning a 5-decade decline.
Current State of Milwaukee
Milwaukee currently ranks 4th among major cities in the US in terms of children living in poverty at 43%. Milwaukee's unemployment rate is the same as the national average, and its jobs market does show signs of stability and even improvement. The city has also started to attract college graduates, 80% of whom moved to Milwaukee because they got a job. Revitalization efforts in the downtown area have been used to attract residents to the city and encourage growth and development.
Milwaukee Population Growth
Milwaukee is a very slowly growing city, with its modest growth mostly concentrated in the neighborhoods around downtown. From 2011 to 2013, Milwaukee added only 4,000 people. While this doesn't sound like a lot, and it isn't, it does show that Milwaukee's experiencing a turnaround after almost five decades of decline. The growth in the downtown areas has been largely attributed to the construction of condos and apartments, with most new residents being young adults.
It's still too soon to tell if the population growth trend in Milwaukee will continue and the city will be able to post positive growth at the next census in 2020, but signs are good Milwaukee has at least partially overcome the slump of the last fifty years.