Detroit Searching for Hope amid Loss

The population core of Detroit has experienced a drastic depletion while catching the nation by surprise. National media publications are reporting on gloomy census findings on a metropolis already beleaguered from political scandal, education crisis and uncertainty in manufacturing employment. These findings were distributed by demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institute and director of SSDAN (Social Science Data Analysis Network).

The findings report nearly 100,000 more people left Detroit than the mass exodus of New Orleans caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Detroit once thrived and bustled with 2 million people in the 1950’s. That figure receded slightly to 1.5 million in the 1970’s. During the 1970’s, Detroit would go on to lose 300,000 residents, but with a large population base the figure did not have serious implications. At present day, Detroit loss 237,500 residents during the previous decade which left the total population standing at 713,777.

Most interesting is 183,393 or 25% of the African American population have uprooted from Detroit also within the past decade. The migration patterns of African Americans are important as the city once held an 83% African American population. William Frey throerized in the New York Times piece that suburbs are the source of the population drain, causing a pulling affect on the city once again, similar to past White migration patterns between urban and suburban communities. The mass departure landing in neighboring suburbs also signal that many ties to Detroit will continue to exist creating a new expanded Detroit.

Last, residents of Detroit are learning another consequence of population drain: when a city loses a core of people, the loss also captures some soul that identified the city. While residents hope for economic vitality on the horizon they also cannot deny the void of a hollow city.

Fernando Orozco
(forozco@umich.edu)
SSDAN Office

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