Detroit’s Population Crashes

Kate Linebaugh, Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2011

The population of Detroit has fallen back 100 years.

The flight of middle-class African-Americans to the suburbs fueled an exodus that cut Detroit’s population 25% in the past decade to 713,777, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday. That’s the city’s lowest population level since the 1910 census, when automobile mass production was making Detroit Detroit.

The decline, the fastest in city history, shocked local officials, who had expected a number closer to 800,000. Mayor Dave Bing said the city would seek a recount.

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In all, the city lost more than 237,000 residents, including 185,000 blacks and about 41,000 whites. The Hispanic population ticked up by 1,500. Meanwhile, the black population in neighboring Macomb County more than tripled to 72,723, constituting 8.6% of the county’s population in 2010, compared with 2.7% a decade earlier. Oakland County’s African-American population rose 36% to 164,078.

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In 1950, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in America, behind New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and it was in the top 10 as recently as the 1990 Census. Now, Detroit is likely to fall to 19th, behind Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

The numbers add new urgency to Mr. Bing’s campaign to align the sprawling city’s finances and geography with its shrinking population–a process the mayor acknowledges is taking more time than he envisioned. {snip}

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Even with these programs, local demographer Kurt Metzger expects the city’s population to fall further. High taxes and failing schools in the city, and inexpensive housing in the suburbs, combine to make Detroit a tough sell.

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