|Could these abandoned Detroit homes soon be filled?
My last post on competing Rust Belt city narratives prompted me to do a little more data investigation. Looking at U.S. Census American Community Survey data, I found this:
“…between 2010 and 2012 the overall population of Detroit declined by 1.7%. But the devil is in the details. Over the same period Detroit’s white population increased by 3%, while its black population decreased by the same amount.
That seemed like the possible beginning of a shifting story. So I looked into racial and ethnic demographic numbers for Detroit’s usual-suspect peer cities: Buffalo, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. I also threw Chicago in since it’s the undisputed capital of the region. Here’s what I found:
|Change in Population, 2010-12
That is indeed the beginning of a shifting story. If this is accurate (and caveats do apply; ACS data has been wildly variable from year to year), Detroit’s white population is growing faster than that of its close peer cities. This is a remarkable feat, considering that Detroit’s white population decreased in every Census from 1950 to 2010, declining from 1.6 million in 1950 to just 55,000 in 2010.
I think what may be happening in Detroit doesn’t compare with the peer cities above; it probably compares more favorably to demographic changes over the last 20 years in Washington, DC (post Marion Barry and insolvency, leading to a financial control board), and the last eight years in New Orleans (post Katrina). DC and NOLA were both heavily African-American cities hit with disaster, either financial or natural, and rebounded after hitting their nadir. In the cities the white population has rebounded while the African-American population has either dropped (NOLA) or remained steady (DC). DC’s white population has grown at an annualized rate of more than five percent a year since 2005, while NOLA’s white population has grown at a slower 2.5 percent rate.
A quick and easy prediction for what might lie ahead for Detroit over the next 10-20 years is something between the DC and NOLA examples. Detroit does not have the dynamic economy that DC does, but likely does have a little more kick than NOLA. We’ll see what happens.