Detroit loses 25% of its population in ten short years

detroit1950I don’t have time to craft a good, comprehensive post about it right now, but I wanted to at least acknowledge that the results of the 2010 Michigan census were released today, and that, among other things, it shows a huge loss of population in Detroit. I don’t think anyone expected the news to be good, but a 25% drop in population in just ten years is unheard of. The following clip comes from the New York Times:

…It was the largest percentage drop in history for any American city with more than 100,000 residents, apart from the unique situation of New Orleans, where the population dropped by 29 percent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College.

The number of people who vanished from Detroit — 237,500 — was bigger than the 140,000 who left New Orleans…

Detroit’s population fell to 713,777 in 2010, the lowest since 1910, when it was 466,000. Unthinkable 20 years ago, it is now smaller than Austin, Tex., Charlotte, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla…

Maybe now thy’ll finally take my idea for an urban homestead act seriously.

Oh, as for these census numbers, there is one big caveat… This data was collected before it became known that Detroit would be home to both RoboCop and The Situation.

P.S. Detroit, for those of you who don’t know, was once the 4th largest city in the United States.

This entry was posted in Detroit, Michigan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. buff
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Not that this really adds anything, but if memory serves me correctly, Detroit was also, geographically, about a third to half the size in 1910 that it is now.

  2. Knox
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Politically speaking, this means a lot less representation for the people of Detroit.

  3. Aaron B.
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Are people truly surprised by these numbers? I for one am not. How else is one to explain the number of abandoned houses, empty lots, and deserted city blocks.

  4. Edward
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I haven’t spent any time searching the web to verify this, but my guess is that there are some conspiracy theorists out there who believe the census was rigged to show lower than actual numbers, in order to justify further cutting services and representation.

  5. Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Setting aside any value judgements one way or the other, and looking at it just in terms of data dork appeal, the population curve of Detroit over the past century is amazing – as fast as it’s losing population now, recall that it grew every bit as fast in the 1900-1930 phase. (Much faster, actually, by percentage.) The overall population graph for the century looks like an upside-down V.

    1900 – 286,000
    1910 – 466,000 (+180,000 / +63%)
    1920 – 994,000 (+528,000 / +113%)
    1930 – 1,569,000 (+575,000 / +58%)

    In those 30 years, Detroit’s population grew by 600% – while New York City’s only doubled. (Though that doubling was 3 million new people, to be clear.)

    In terms of actual numbers, the city grew by over 1,000,000 people in just 2 decades. On the decline side, the population in 1970 was just about that of 1930, and the city has only lost 800,000 in the 40 years since – shedding people at less than half the pace it gained them.

    Meanwhile, in those 40 years, the population of metro Detroit (which includes Washtenaw County, Livingston County, etc) has [only] gained 100,000 people. We’re not growing, we’re not shrinking – we’re just moving around within the region.

  6. Kim
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Murph.

    As for what to do about it, as much as I hate the idea of kicking families out of their homes, I think that we need to start relocating people. Detroit is just too damned big. We need to help push along the consolidation that’s already taking place.

  7. Smurf
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I’d hate to see what would have happened in 10 long years!

  8. Zar
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Sadly, the ones that left were probably those with marketable skills.

  9. dp in ypsi
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Here is a survey from WDET that I just completed:

  10. dp in ypsi
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Out of curiosity, I just quoted my car insurance rates if I were living at an apartment building a friend owns in Midtown Detroit.

    In Depot Town I pay about $1000/year for full coverage, and this is still 12% more than when I lived in Ann Arbor for a stint several years ago.

    If I moved to Midtown Detroit today, the same policy would cost me $2200 a year.

    Add income tax, lack of services and grocery stores and we can quickly see even the basics don’t add up in favor of population trends changing anytime soon.

  11. Mr. X
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    FWIW, there are grocery stores in Detroit.

  12. dp in ypsi
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    @Mr X: I would beg to differ with the blog you note, that the dots don’t represent liquor stores… I just did the search in Google and many that I scrolled over were just that.

    I didn’t know, however that there was a Randazzo’s Market in the D. Granted, it’s barely south of 8 Mile, but it is there.

    I’ll make a point to visit the 7 grocery stores noted by Google next time I spend some time in Midtown… now I’m curious.

  13. Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    These aren’t grocery stores, they are small markets and liquor stores, which is fine. But 7 stores that service nearly 800,000 people over more than 138 square miles. These stores, while welcome, are a number that is woefully inadequate.

    To put it in perspective, there are well over 10 food stores in Ann Arbor, 4 of which are large supermarkets, all catering to a population of less than 150,000 people over 28 square miles.

    I know that’s hard to get your head around, but Detroit’s situation is absolutely unforgivable.

  14. lorie thom
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    @Knox – representation is per person for the most part so one might be able to say that at least for the last 5 years, Detroit has been over-represented in a political context.

    The census figures are not a surprise at all – not since last summer. The statistics were impressively lower than expected from the moment the census takers hit the streets.

    There has been a lot of documentation of white flight in context with the riots and race-bating that went on with Coleman Young in that time. I am wondering if anyone has published what kinds of population has been leaving in the last 10 years and what the projections are for the next 10. And…where are they going if the metro area isn’t growing all that much? They all aren’t just dying are they?

  15. dp in ypsi
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    @Peter: the 7 stores I noted are listed in Midtown, not trying to say they are the only ones in the city, but I think I agree with your overall point.

  16. Fisting in the D
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    When the revolution comes, I plan to melt the fist for bullets.

  17. Eel
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I hate to sound insensitive, but cities are living things, and Detroit is dying. We should let it die in peace, and plant a nice grove of trees to mark the spot where it once stood.

  18. Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    That does a whole lot of good for the people who live there.

    I tell you what, WE’RE ALL DYING. Let’s just kill ourselves now.

  19. bgm
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    @lorie thom

    “There has been a lot of documentation of white flight in context with the riots and race-bating that went on with Coleman Young in that time. I am wondering if anyone has published what kinds of population has been leaving in the last 10 years and what the projections are for the next 10. And…where are they going if the metro area isn’t growing all that much? They all aren’t just dying are they?”

    As someone who grew up in the almost-100%-white suburbs of the 60’s and 70’s it’s amazing to see the number of black families living in these communities today. I have nothing to back this up but it seems pretty obvious to me that much like the white flight of the 70’s Detroit is now experiencing a black flight of those who want out. Where 237,500 people have gone I don’t know. My personal experience has seen a number of family and friends leave Michigan in the last two decades. Perhaps that partly explains the relatively flat population growth of the metro area that Murph cited despite the huge losses in Detroit.

  20. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    The city is chock full of children and lots of young and old women in decaying rental houses. Head Start is not even serving all the little ones in the big D

  21. Aaron B.
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    There are grocery stores in Detroit but not any major chains and the ones that are there are a lot smaller than your average Kroger. Many more liquor stores than grocers though… and a fair amount of dollar stores.

    Some what related, I just read this book “Getting Ghost” non-fictional about 2 different young drug dealers in Detroit city. Was an interesting read and even more so being I used to live fairly close to one of the neighborhoods written about… gives an interesting take on some Detroit neighborhoods.

  22. Meta
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Kalamazoo is growing.

    Kalamazoo County grew by 5 percent to 250,331.

    The promise of paid college tuition appears to have fueled some of that growth.

    In 2006, anonymous donors promised to pay college tuition for high school graduates in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Called the Kalamazoo Promise, the campaign appears to have attracted families to the urban district. Enrollment there grew by 22 percent, to about 12,400 students.

    “Every kid that comes to Kalamazoo — I think we’re just thankful,” said Alex Lee, spokesman for Kalamazoo Public Schools.

    New students came in waves at first, mostly due to out-of-state families moving into the district, Lee said. The growth in recent years has somewhat slowed, he said, likely due to the economy and limited job availability.

    A year after the campaign was launched, Allen Edwin Homes, a Portage-based home builder, began building homes for the first time within the district. To date, it has constructed 225 single-family homes. All of them are occupied, said Jessica Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Allen Edwin.

    “They have all been purchased,” she said.

    The homes, both ranches and bi-levels, sold at an average price of $140,000, she said. Wilcox, herself a mother, bought one of them four years ago, lured by the assurance of paid college tuition for her children, and the anticipated appreciation of property values down the road.

    “We also knew it would be great investment,” she said. “We knew it would be a win-win.”

    From The Detroit News:

  23. Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Let’s just let all those people in the D die, after all they have just failed in the free market. They get what they deserve for being lazy.

    It’s incredible how, when talking about the problems of the poor, what assholes people become.

  24. Chairman Meow
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    What happened to DesignatedCon? He would have useful insights to bring to this conversation, being an urban planner.

  25. Posted March 24, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    @bgm –

    Where 237,500 people have gone I don’t know. My personal experience has seen a number of family and friends leave Michigan in the last two decades. Perhaps that partly explains the relatively flat population growth of the metro area that Murph cited despite the huge losses in Detroit.

    The metro area is inclusive of the City of Detroit – this is my point, that while we can point to individual municipalities as “growing” or “shrinking”, at the regional level we’re just rearranging. People are moving out of the city to the suburbs, but we’re not actually getting any “growth” in the area.

    Unless, of course, you look at the “growth” of public expense to serve this shifting population. From a fiscal conservative’s standpoint, it’s a travesty to spend a bunch of resources to build new roads, water, sewer, fire stations, etc on the fringe, so that you can shuffle people around, while still having to maintain all the infrastructure you already have. No new people, no new jobs, but higher costs to provide public services to them.

  26. lorie thom
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink


    I’d like to know who is studying it with the associated demographics – income/capita, home values etc., race etc. I think there is much much more to the story than just a simple shifting around of populations.

  27. Ted
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    There are some successes. There’s a story on today about a man that moved here from Ohio after hearing one of our Michigan tourism ads.

  28. Emma
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Bank of America is sort of Urban Homesteading:|head

  29. Glen S.
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Funny how Bank of America announced their good deed a day before this:|head

    After receiving a generous helping of TARP money, this “to-big-to-fail” bank took advantage of the 2008 financial crisis to buy up many of its struggling rivals — and BofA is now America’s largest bank holding company with $2.3 TRILLION in assets and $1 trillion in deposits.

    For those interested interested in supporting local democracy and local economies, I urge you to consider switching your checking, savings and credit-card accounts from the big national mega-banks (like BofA) to a locally-owned and managed bank — or better yet, a local, customer-owned credit union.

    I did this years ago, and not only do I appreciate that more my money stays here in the community to benefit local businesses and homeowners, I find that the rates and customer service are MUCH better, as well.

  30. Aaron B.
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    @Glen – Yes, Credit Unions are the way to go IMO.

  31. Edward
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    If you haven’t already, join US Uncut.

  32. Glen S.
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    @ Edward

    Did you see this in yesterday’s New York Times?

    HEADLINE: G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether

    “General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

    Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.”

    Just for reference, the $3.2 billion check the U.S. treasury will be sending to G.E. is nearly twice the amount of Michigan’s alleged budget deficit for the coming fiscal year …

  33. Ted
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I thought US Uncut was about circumcision.

    Speaking of which, can those of us who were circumcised against our wishes get cadaver foreskin transplants or something?

  34. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    @Glen, more corporate welfare

  35. Kim
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    If the CEO of GE were a fat black woman in a fur coat buying steaks, we’d be irate.

  36. Posted February 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Look at the population over time. The height was hit in 1950. IT has been declining ever since, year after year, decade over decade. Anyone who is caught by surprise is tripping! The growth in Detroit was at the beginning of the 1900’s. Well how can anyone expect growth EVER in Detroit? That is a stupid, (there is no other way to say it!) idea. Detroit should consider any and all ways to consolidate at a future smaller population that they KNOW will occur in their near future. The numbers could not be more clear about how long the decline ahas been occurring (without any variation) and where it is likely to go. Really?!? This is a surprise? IF this is a surprise it is no wonder you don’t know what to do…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Apes Selection