The Motor City and Automotive Industry still dictate state’s export economy

The Southeast Michigan region was the fifth largest export market in the United States in 2013 according to U.S. Census Bureau Statistics, with more than $53.9 billion in exports. In the same year, the state of Michigan reported $58.7 billion in exports, making the region (which includes Lapeer County in the Southeast Michigan) responsible for 91.8 percent of the state’s export economy. This post explores the role of exports in the regional economy and examines how trade connects the region to the world economy.

The map above shows the top 25 export recipients receiving goods originating in Michigan in 2014. In 2014, Michigan exports accounted for 3.4 percent of the national export total, by value. Among the top 25 export recipients are countries on six of seven continents. The strongest partnership is with neighboring Canada at more than $25,405 million. Fellow North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partner Mexico follows Canada, but is well behind at $10,804 million.

Export statistics support Michigan’s case as a leader in automotive manufacturing, and this is driven by Detroit. Of the top 25 products being exported, 21 were automotive parts or vehicles; they comprised 45.4 percent of all exports from the state of Michigan in 2014, and grew by 2.9 percent, on average, between 2013 and 2014. Exported products that were not directly related to the automotive industry were aircraft parts, natural gas, iron ore and medicines. These products represented just 6.6 percent of all exports, by value, and saw an average growth of just 2.7 percent from 2013 to 2014.

In 2013 Wayne County produced the lion’s share of exports by value in the region ($31 billion), more than double the second-highest exporting county (Oakland at $14.5 billion), according to the International Trade Administration (ITA), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, using Census data from 2013.

The ITA also indicates that exports were not predominantly the Big 3 automakers exporting finished products, but small producers of automotive parts. In 2011, 7,215 different businesses exported out of metropolitan region, with 90 percent of exports coming from firms employing fewer than 500 employees, according to the ITA.

The next two maps look specifically at the Ports of Detroit (this includes two ports, Detroit Metropolitan Airport and the Port of Detroit – a container port). These maps show export partners by value and by weight for 2010, the last year for which the Census Bureau has port-specific data publicly available. When examined by value, Detroit sent a great deal of export value in 2014 ($USD) to Canada and Western Europe. No country outside these two regions received more than $25 million in exports from Detroit. Nations with robust automotive industries of their own – Germany, the United Kingdom and France – are among some of the largest recipients of Detroit products.

When examined by weight, a more broad trade geography emerges. Including this measure allows us to see more clearly where finished vehicles and iron ores are going. While Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom still lead among export recipients when considered by weight, South Africa and China emerge as significant trade partners.

The ITA indicates that since 2010 Michigan has seen a noteworthy increase in trade (by value) with Mexico, Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, which have overtaken many of the European nations to join Canada among the top five recipients of Detroit-area exports.


Manufacturing jobs decentralized from Detroit

In this post, we look at the data on manufacturing employment in the seven county region to see the variation in manufacturing jobs are throughout the Metro-Detroit Region. One thing that stands out is the lack of manufacturing trade-based jobs in Detroit in 2012.

In the map above we see that for every hundred people that lived in Detroit in 2012 there were only 2.5 manufacturing jobs.

By 2012 manufacturing jobs were decentralized from outside the city in Livingston County, which had the highest number of manufacturing jobs per person at 10 per 100 people. By contrast within Wayne County there were only 4.4 manufacturing jobs per 100 people. Both Macomb County and St. Clair County rank above that.

The GM Tech Center, TACOM (a U.S. Army manufacturing plant that makes items such as tanks for soldiers), and manufacturing plants for all of the Big Three, along with their suppliers are located in Warren in Macomb County. According to Crain’s Detroit, General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford are three of Macomb County’s largest employers. Also in that list is the U.S. government, which would include TACOM

The county with the lowest number of manufacturing jobs per 100 people was Washtenaw County; there were 3.5 manufacturing jobs per 100 people in 2012.

Where the previous map examined the manufacturing jobs per 100 people, this looks at the absolute number of manufacturing jobs in each municipality. It presents a very different perspective. We see, from this perspective, that Detroit was one of a few places in the region with more than 5,000 manufacturing jobs in 2012.

However, Detroit is not home to a majority of the manufacturing jobs in existence in the region. Most of the manufacturing plants of the Big Three are located outside of the City of Detroit. For example, Ford only has one manufacturing plant in Detroit, but has 12 in the Metro-Detroit suburbs. This is part of the reason we see the manufacturing hot spots such as Livonia, Wayne and Dearborn.

With GM, in addition to its headquarters being located in Detroit, there is one manufacturing plant that is located within the City and 12 in the suburbs, according to the GM website. For Chrysler, the ratio is much more equal; there are four Chrysler plants located in Detroit and five in the suburbs, according to the Chrysler website.

Detroit among several communities where more than 50 percent of children live below the poverty line

The message from the maps below is clear: the percentage of children living below the poverty line in 2013 in the city of Detroit was far greater than the majority of the other communities in the seven county region. At 55.1 percent, Detroit’s poverty rate was double that of the national rate (19.9 percent) and double or more of the rates of each county within the region.

The Census Bureau, which produced this data for the American Community Survey, uses a set of money income thresholds, as set by the Office of Management and Budget, which vary by family size and composition to determine what the poverty line is. The poverty line does not vary by geographic location but is respondent to inflation. Generally speaking, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the annual poverty rate is “calculated using the sum of family income over the year divided by the sum of poverty thresholds that can change from month to month if one’s family composition changes.”

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the weighted poverty level in 2013 for a family of four was $23,834.

With Detroit having 55.1 percent of its children living below the poverty level in 2013, we also see that at the county level, Wayne County had the highest child poverty rate at 22.5 percent. While cities like Livonia, Canton, Plymouth and Woodhaven all had child poverty rates below 10 percent, there were some communities in Wayne County where levels were above Detroit’s. For example, Highland Park had the highest percentage of children living below the poverty line at 68 percent. Hamtramck’s percentage was also above Detroit’s at 62.1 percent, as was Inkster’s at 56.3 percent. The percentage of children living below the poverty level in River Rouge was just below Detroit at 50.1 percent.

Pontiac, which is in Oakland County, was the only other community within the region where more than 50 percent of its children were living below the poverty line. In 2013 in Pontiac, 54.3 percent of the children lived below the poverty line.

On the opposite end of the spectrum in Wayne County, there were communities such as Grosse Pointe (1%), Grosse Pointe Farms (1.8%), Grosse Ile (4.7 %), and Plymouth (5%) where 5 percent or less of the child population lived below the poverty line. In Oakland County, there were 11 communities where 5 percent or less of the children lived below the poverty line. These communities were: South Lyon (.2 percent), Royal Oak (5%), Rochester (5%), Orchard Lake (.7%), Novi (0%), Lake Angelus (0%), Huntington Woods (.3%), Bloomfield Hills (0%), Birmingham (3.1%), Berkley (4.8 percent), Sylvan Lake (0%).

Overall, Livingston County had the lowest percentage of children living below the poverty line at 7.4 percent. This was the only county where less than 10 percent of the children in a county lived below the poverty line. Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and Monroe counties all had less than 20 percent of their child populations living below the poverty level.

Although Detroit did not have the highest percent of children living below the poverty line in the seven county region, its rate did soar above the national and county averages. As seen in the map above, the majority of the census tracts within the city had 50 percent or more of its children living below the poverty line. Pockets of this poverty appear to be concentrated more so in the east side of the city, in Southwest Detroit, and near the Warrendale neighborhood on the west side. There were only seven census tracts within the city where 10 percent or less of the children were living below this poverty line. These areas include the downtown area, Indian Village, Arden Park, East Village, Midtown and Rosedale Park.

Property values increase throughout Wayne and neighboring counties

Preliminary numbers released by County Equalization Departments show that throughout Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties property values increased between 2013 and 2014. According to state law, property assessments are equal to half a property’s market value. Overall, Oakland and Macomb counties saw assessed property values increase by upwards of 11 percent. In Wayne County though, overall assessed property values increased by about half that amount. The assessed property values in the city of Detroit decreased by 9.7 percent. The values are expected to be approved by the county legislative bodies in April.

As seen in the first map, the tri-county region experienced an increase in assessed property values. In the second map, we are able to see what communities experienced higher increases than others. In Oakland County, Madison Heights experienced the largest percentage increase in assessed property values at 15.95 percent, while in Macomb County, Sterling Heights had the largest percentage increase at 15.29 percent. Riverview in Wayne County had the largest percentage increase in the tri-county area at 20.95 percent.


Wayne County, however, was also the only county in the area where certain communities experienced a decrease in their property assessment values. River Rouge in Wayne County experienced the largest decline at 26.65 percent. Other communities in the county that experienced property assessment value declines were Inkster, Hamtramck, Detroit and Lincoln Park.

Values for New Haven, Romeo and the Village of Armada, all in Macomb County, were not available.

Pontiac schools have lowest percentage of third-graders meeting state reading proficiency levels in 7-county region

Today kicks off “March is Reading Month” and with that comes a focus on the foundation that proficient reading skills can provide a person. A great deal of attention by educators and policymakers is often placed on third grade reading levels because experts believe a child’s ability to read at that time in their life can be a crucial indicator for their future success.

Additionally, in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder announced during his State of the State Address a $468 million proposal meant to increase reading proficiency in the State of Michigan. Part of this proposal includes a reading proficiency test for third-graders to better determine how their cumulative instruction has affected their reading skills, which would be separate than the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP). However, the Governor has yet to release all the details behind this plan but in spring of this year we do know that the Michigan Test of Education Progress will replace the MEAP.

Currently in the State of Michigan, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) is used to determine how students in grades three through 11 measure up to the educational expectations set by the State Board of Education. For all grade levels the state’s goal is to have 80 percent of all of Michigan’s third-graders reading at a proficient level, according to the State of Michigan.

With the extra attention currently being placed on reading proficiency in the State of Michigan, we chose to examine the percent of third and fourth-grade students who were deemed proficient on the MEAP reading exams in 2013-2014. The MEAP tests are given in the fall of every academic year, so we show both the third and fourth-grade reading proficiency percentages to provide readers a better understanding of where students’ reading skills, in accordance with state standardized testing levels, were at the beginning and end of third and fourth grade. On the state’s education website,, fourth-grade reading MEAP scores are used on the dashboard for each school as a student outcome measure.

For the 2013-14 school year, 61.3 percent of Michigan’s third-graders were deemed proficient in reading. When looking at this map we see several pockets of school districts where third-graders either performed at this level or below. In total, there were 53 school districts where less than 61.3 percent of the third-grade students were deemed proficient in reading. According to the Michigan Department of Education proficiency levels for the 2013-14 MEAP exam are determined as follows: “the 2011-2012 proficiency rate for each school and district in every subject [is] subtracted from the end 85 percent proficiency target rate for the 2021-2022 school year. That number [is] then divided by ten (the number of years between the 2011-2012 and 2021-2022 school years) to determine the annual increment for the subject target rate. This increment is added to the 2011-2012 subject proficiency rate and then again each year leading up to the 2021-2022 school year.” The proficiency rate varies from district to district but the percent deemed proficient, which is shown in the maps in this post, presents the percentage of students we met these standards.

Pontiac School District in Oakland County had the lowest percentage of third-graders who met the proficiency standards at 25.7 percent. Detroit City School District had the eighth lowest percentage at 35.3 percent.

On the opposite end of the spectrum during the 2013-14 school year, Grosse Ile Township Schools had the highest percentage of third-graders deemed proficient on the reading portion of the MEAP; 86.7 percent of those students were considered proficient.

Seventy percent of Michigan fourth-graders were deemed proficient in the 2013-14 school year on the MEAP reading examination. In total, there were 49 school districts below the state’s proficiency level during the time frame examined.

Again, the Pontiac School District had the lowest percentage of students deemed proficient in reading in the region (32%). The Detroit City School District had the sixth lowest percentage of all the districts in the region, with 42 percent of its students meeting the proficiency level.

Northville Public Schools had the highest percentage of students who met the reading proficiency levels (91.2%). Grosse Ile Public Schools came in third in the region, with 90.3 percent of their fourth-graders meeting proficiency levels.

NYT: Middle-class occupations have shifted

The following graphics, from the New York Times, summarize the labor market changes nationally since 1980. They make very clear why Michigan and the Detroit Metropolitan area have had such a hard time, given this area’s concentration in two categories–skilled production workers and machine operators and assemblers. Both of these categories have declined precipitously, both in absolute and relative terms. The accompanying article is a useful explanation of the national trends.

Unemployment numbers decreased with the holiday season

  • From October 2014 to December 2014, the unemployment rate across the state and in the City of Detroit’s decreased (monthly);
  • The Purchasing Manager’s Index for Southeast Michigan increased from November 2014 to December 2014 (monthly);
  • Commodity Price Index decreased from November 2014 to December 2014 for Southeast Michigan (monthly);
  • Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties experienced decreases in the number of monthly building permits pulled.

Slide02According to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, the unemployment rate for the state of Michigan decreased from 7.1 percent in October to 6.3 percent in December. During this same period, unemployment in the city of Detroit also decreased from 15.1 in October percent to 12.2 percent.


From November to December of 2014, the number of people employed in the city of Detroit increased by 1,775, leading to a total of 287,228 people employed in December.


The above chart shows the number of people employed in the auto manufacturing industry in the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) (Detroit-Warren-Livonia) from December 2013 to December 2014. From July 2014 to November 2014 employment in this industry has increased by 9,000 from 91,600 to 100,600. However, from November to December, that number stagnated, remaining at 100,600. This was still the highest it had been over the last year.


The Purchasing Manger’s Index (PMI) is a composite index derived from five indicators of economic activity: new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries, and inventories. A PMI above 50 means the economy is expanding.

According to the most recent data released on Southeast Michigan’s Purchasing Manager’s Index, the PMI for December 2014 was 64.2, an increase of 7.4 points from the prior month. As compared to December 2013, there has been an increase of 13.6 points.


The Commodity Price Index, which is a weighted average of selected commodity prices, was recorded at 54.2 points in December 2014, which was 7.6 points lower than the previous month and 1.9 points higher than December 2013.


The above charts show the number of residential building permits obtained each month in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties from January 2013 until December 2014. These numbers are reported by local municipalities to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments and include single-family units, two-family units, attached condos, and multi-family units.


Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties all experienced a decrease in the number of building permits pulled from November 2014 to December 2014. These declines are largely seasonal, due to weather. Only Wayne County issued more permits in December 2014 than it did in December 2013. Oakland County issued 131 permits in December of 2014, a decrease of 10 compared to November 2014 and a decrease of 18 compared to December 2013. Macomb County issued 31 permits in December 2014, 47 fewer than in November 2014 and 52 fewer than in December 2013.

Wayne County issued nine fewer building permits in December than November of this year; in total 52 permits were pulled. This is seven more than the number pulled for the county in December 2013.


Washtenaw County has highest percentage of foreign-born residents

The U.S. Census Bureau defines a foreign-born person as “anyone who was not a U.S. citizen at birth. This includes respondents who indicated they were a U.S. citizen by naturalization or not a U.S. citizen. Persons born abroad of American parents or born in Puerto Rico or other U.S. Island Areas are not considered foreign born.”

In 2012, 12.9 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born and 6 percent of Michigan’s population was foreign-born, according to American Community Survey. While no county in Southeast Michigan had a higher percentage of foreign-born residents than the entire United States overall, four of the seven counties in the region did have a higher foreign-born population percentage than Michigan.

We saw in a previous post that Oakland County had the highest percentage of refugee residents in the region in 2012. This post shows that Washtenaw County had the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in that same year.


As noted, Washtenaw County had the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in 2012. During that time, 11.4 percent of Washtenaw County’s population was made up of foreign-born residents. Oakland and Macomb counties, which had the largest refugee populations, were the only other counties in the region where more than 10 percent of the population was made of foreign-born residents. In Oakland County, 11.2 percent of the population was foreign-born and in Macomb County 10 percent of the population was foreign-born.

Monroe County had the lowest percentage of foreign-born residents at 2 percent.


We see above that much of the foreign-born population in Washtenaw County resided in and around Ann Arbor.  Within Ann Arbor and portions of Scio, Pittsfield and Ypsilaniti we see that the foreign-born population made up 20 percent or more of the population. Throughout the rest of the county though, particularly the west side, the foreign-born population made up less than 5 percent of the population.


Wayne County, which had a foreign-born population of 7.7 percent, had both the municipality with the highest percentage of foreign-born residents and the lowest. The foreign-born population in Hamtramck made up 43.1 percent of the city’s population. Highland Park’s population was only made up of .4 percent of foreign-born residents.

Other municipalities throughout the tri-county region where more than 4 percent of the population was foreign-born were: Detroit (Wayne), Dearborn (Wayne), West Bloomfield (Oakland), Troy (Oakland) and Sterling Heights (Macomb).


In Detroit, where 5.1 percent of the population was foreign-born, the majority of these residents resided in and around Southwest Detroit. In Southwest Detroit, that neighborhood’s population was 47 percent foreign-born. Springwells, West Riverfront, Vernor, Chadsey, Hubbard, and Boynton were other Detroit neighborhoods where 20 percent of more of the population was foreign-born. As we learned in a previous post, much of the foreign-born people living in this area of Detroit are of Hispanic descent.

Opting-Out limits manufacturing employment opportunities for the transit dependent

James Robertson, has been coined Detroit’s “walking man” because of his tenacity in earning a perfect attendance mark at his suburban factory job all while walking nearly 21 miles round trip from Detroit to Rochester Hills. Without a car, Robertson must hobble together a defunct set of bus routes, leaving him no choice but to walk most of the distance into the Detroit suburbs. This story is surely one of many in the Metro-Detroit are, begging the question: Why is the public transit system in the Detroit area far less than mediocre?

Drawing Detroit sets out to illustrate the issue and to discuss how allowing communities to opt out of transit service can limit employment opportunities and create a situation of economic injustice.

Below is a map showing the number of manufacturing employees reported to the 2012 Economic Census of the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012 along with the transit status of communities in Wayne and Oakland counties. Aside from the Detroit Department of Transportation, the only existing transit system that is close being considered somewhat regional is Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit (SMART). SMART has bus lines that run throughout Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. In Wayne and Oakland counties municipalities have the option to either opt-in or opt-out supporting SMART, and therefor having it run through their community. In Oakland, the majority of communities-55 percent of 33 of 60- have opted out. In Macomb County, all municipalities support SMART; they do not have the option to opt-out. Because of this, they are irrelevant to the discussion.

Some critics of the Free-Press article on Robertson indicated that there has been little need for low-skill workers in Detroit and other poorer communities to travel into these opt-out communities for employment or otherwise, characterizing these suburbs as bedroom communities with limited job prospects for transit-dependent workers. A quick examination of the map below indicates this is a fallacy. Many manufacturing jobs have moved to the suburbs, following its workforce and also seeking out new facilities and campuses in unsettled areas. Opt-out communities including Oxford Township, Novi and Canton have in excess of 2,000 manufacturing jobs located in their boundaries; Livonia had 9,447 manufacturing jobs in 2012.

In total, 38,461 manufacturing jobs were located in opt-out communities in these two counties, representing 34.1 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the two-county area. Broken down by county, it is 29.6 percent (19,484 manufacturing jobs) of Wayne County’s manufacturing employment and 40.6 percent (18,977 manufacturing jobs) of Oakland’s manufacturing employment.

Median income provide different view of Southeastern Michigan

Various blog posts drawing attention to the income disparities that exist throughout Southeastern Michigan have appeared on Drawing Detroit. This particular post though is more visual in its depiction of income throughout the region at the county and municipal levels. In particular, this post presents the 2013 median household income for the seven counties in the region, along with the municipalities in the tri-county region, in a cartogram form.

A cartogram is a geographic representation method that alters the area and shape of locations, while still preserving their spatial relationships, in order to demonstrate the relative relationship of a data feature. This method allows the cartographer to change the way the map is experienced visually, by applying weight to data, while also maintaining geographic relationships.

Of the maps presented in this post, the above map is the least skewed in terms of income in relation to the size of the counties. Livingston County, which had the highest median household income in 2013 at $72,359, appears only slightly larger than its size on a normal scale. There is also a noticeable difference in the size of Wayne County, which had a median household income of $41,138 in 2013. This was the lowest median household income of all the seven counties.

The above two maps truly highlight the income disparities in the tri-county region, particularly in Wayne County. In both maps, the Grosse Pointes stand out as having median household incomes above $80,001. Grosse Pointe Woods ($105,071) and Grosse Pointe Farms ($107,152) had the highest incomes in that area.

In looking at both maps we see that Detroit simply serves as a low-income small connector between wealthy municipalities like the Grosse Pointes and the Plymouth area. Because the size of a municipality in these maps is determined by relative median household income and not geographic size, Detroit, which is the largest city by population in the state of Michigan, does not draw the visual attention it typically would. It has been dramatically impacted by its low median household income of $26,325 in 2013.

Another notable municipality with a high median household income is Lake Angelus in Oakland County. Lake Angelus is only 1.6 square miles but in the above map we see that its median household income makes it larger (in the cartogram) than cities such as Pontiac, Detroit, Warren and Mount Clemens. Lake Angelus had a median household income of $163,393 in 2013.

Other municipalities whose size appears larger in these maps because of their median household income were: Bloomfield Hills ($147,969), Novi Township ($108,125), Plymouth Township ($86,217), Canton ($81,667), Northville Township ($97,161), Grosse Ile ($88,238), and Orchard Lake ($137,321).

The above cartogram looks at median household income in Detroit by Census Tract in 2013. Areas making less than $20,000 greatly outnumber those making $80,000 or more. Riverview, Midtown, Rosedale Park and Indian Village swell greatly due to their high median income, while areas like Palmer Park and Grandmont-Rosedale also increase in size at the expense of areas like Brightmoor, Briggs, Core City and Poletown.

By viewing a municipality’s size in relation to the median household income we are able to gain a better understanding of where higher household incomes are located in Southeastern Michigan. These maps show that much of the wealth in the region is located in the northeastern and northwestern portions of Wayne County and throughout Oakland County.