As of the 2000 Census, the city proper had a total population of 478,403, and was then the 33rd largest city in the United States, (now estimated as the 40th largest due to declines in population) and the second largest city in Ohio. It is the center of Greater Cleveland, the largest metropolitan area in Ohio, which spans several counties and is defined in several different ways by the Census Bureau. The Cleveland-Elyria-MentorMetropolitan Statistical Area which in 2000 ranked as the 23rd largest in the United States with 2,250,871 people. Cleveland is also part of the larger Cleveland-Akron-Elyria Combined Statistical Area, which in 2000 had a population of 2,945,831, and ranked as the country's 14th largest. Like many former urban manufacturing centers of the U.S. Rust Belt, Cleveland as a city has collapsed from a population of 914,000 in 1950 to less than half that today. 
National media began referring to Cleveland as "the mistake on the lake" in the 1970s, in reference to the city's financial difficulties, a notorious 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River (where industrial waste on the river's surface caught on fire), and its struggling professional sports teams. The city has worked to shed this nickname ever since, and in recent times the national media have been much kinder to the city, using it as an exemplar for public-private partnerships, downtown revitalization, and urban renaissance. In studies conducted by The Economist in 2005, Cleveland and Pittsburgh were ranked as the most livable cities in the United States, and the city was ranked as the best city for business meetings in the continental U.S. The city faces continuing challenges, in particular from concentrated poverty in some neighborhoods and difficulties in the funding and delivery of high-quality public education.