Population pyramids highlight distinctions between Southeast Michigan communities

In this post we examine the age distributions of the 2012 population by displaying the data in population pyramids for the following cities: Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County), Brighton (Livingston County), Detroit (Wayne County), Livonia (Wayne County), Monroe (Monroe County), Port Huron (St. Clair County), Sterling Heights (Macomb County),and Troy (Oakland County). For each city the percent of the population in the age groups listed on the y-axis are displayed for both males and females. The age groups with the wider arm in the pyramid represent age groups that make up a larger percent of the city’s overall population. These cities were chosen because they are the largest cities in each of the seven counties of Southeast Michigan; Livonia was included in addition to Detroit to highlight what differences may exist between the county’s two largest cities. All population data was taken from the American Community Survey, 2012-5 year estimates. They are listed in alphabetical order. Note that the scale for the City of Ann Arbor pyramid is different in order to accommodate local patterns, so readers should attend closely to the scales.

In addition to a population pyramid showing age distribution of the population, it also sheds light on the birth rate, death rate and life expectancy of the population. There are general shapes to a population pyramid: a pyramid, a box or barrel, and an inverted pyramid. These type of pyramids represent the following:

  • Pyramid: a developing nation, or in this case city, with a slow growth rate, high birth rate, and often a short life expectancy.
  • Barrel: a nation or city that is already well established with a low infant mortality rate, slow population growth, and high life expectancy.
  • Inverted pyramid: a nation or city with negative growth, which is associated with a low birth rate, a shrinking population and low life expectancy.

In this post, one sees substantially diverse pyramids across the cities. One visual pattern, consistent with all other data, is the far higher share of women living to greater ages than men.


Note: Ann Arbor’s scales are substantially different than the other charts to accommodate the large college age population.

In 2012, the majority of the population in Ann Arbor, which is home to the University of Michigan, was ages 15 -19 and 20 -24: for females 31.5 percent of the population was represented in these two age groups and for males and 38.5 percent of the population was represented. Of all the age groups, the 20-24 one was the most represented for males and females: for females, 19.3 percent of the population was aged 20-24 and for males 20.7 percent of the population was aged 20-24 in 2012. Aside from the population bulges for the college-age students, population growth was fairly stable, as can be seen by the similar age-group representations throughout the pyramid. However, population among children is much lower than some other cities in this post.


In 2012 in Brighton, 51.6 percent of the male population was between the ages 25 and 59 in 2012 and 70.7 percent of the female population was in that age range. The age group of 40-44 had the highest percentage of females in 2012, with 10.6 percent of the female residents being in that age range. For males, the most common age group was between the ages of 30 and 34; 9.8 percent of the male population was in that age range. In Brighton, the 20-24 age group was the least numerous, with 2 percent of males in Brighton being in that age group and 2.2 percent of females. Brighton is the only city in this post where there were more older men than women. This can be seen by the fact that the percent of males aged 85 and above was 5.2 percent while only 4.5 percent of females were aged 85 and above.


The city of Detroit compared to the other cities in this post, with the exceptions of Port Huron and Monroe (for females) had a relatively high birth rate, as can be seen by the fact 32.7 percent of the males in the city were aged 19 or below and 28.5 percent of the females in Detroit were below the age of 19 in 2012. According to the Michigan Department of Community Healthy, the city’s birth rate in 2012 was 14 per 1,000 residents; the state’s was 11.4. Detroit’s population bulge occurred in the 15-19 age group for both males and females. Also, in 2012, according the Michigan Department of Community Health the infant mortality rate in Detroit was 15 while the state of Michigan’s was 6.9.

As the population ages, the chart shows a more traditional male-to-female ratio in the older years, unlike in Brighton. Starting with the 60 to 64 age grouping, there began to be a larger difference between the percent of males represented versus the percent of females represented in the population. In total, 14.3 percent of the males in Detroit were aged 60 and above in 2012 compared to 18.8 percent of females who were aged 60 and above.


For the city of Livonia, the population bulge in 2012 was between the ages of 45 and 59 for both males and females (25.2% of both males and females where in this age range), highlighting the baby boomers, who would have been between the ages of 47 and 66 in 2012. Overall, the population pyramid for Livonia’s population in 2012 shows that the population was middle aged. For males, the age group with the highest representation was the 50-54 percent age group with 8.9 percent. For females, the 50-54 age group had the highest representation at 9.2 percent.


The population pyramid shows Monroe’s population was fairly stable, with a fewer percentage of both males and females in the 25-34 age range. Also, aside from those five-year ranges aged 70 and above, males between the age of 10 and 24 years of age were the smallest group at 3.9 percent, indicating an aging population.


In 2012, Port Huron’s population pyramid showed that the population was slightly growing, because of the high dependent population, which is those age 9 and under, and overall pyramid shape to the population distribution, with a wide base and narrow top, closely resembling a pyramid. At that time, 26.9 percent of females in Port Huron were 19 or under and 30.3 percent of males were 19 or under. In Port Huron in 2012 the birth rate was 14 per 1,000 residents, compared to the state’s rate of 11.9.


The population pyramid above, which represents Sterling Heights, is more stable, seeing as how a majority of the age groups represented in the chart made up similar percentages of the population in 2012. For males, the 45-49 age group was the most represented at 7.9 percent and for females the 50-54 age group had the highest representation at 7.8 percent. Sterling Heights, like Livonia, shows a bulge in the population just beyond child-bearing years, but still of working age.


For the city of Troy, those between the ages of 35-69 and 5-19 for both males and females were part of the population bulges. For males, the age groups of 45-49 and 50-54 each had the highest representation of the population at 8.9 percent. For females, the 50-54 age group had the highest representation at 8.4 percent. In addition to the middle-age population bulge, this chart shows that in recent years birth rates started to decline, as can be seen from the transition from the under 5 years of age group up through the 15-19 years of age group. For example, in 2012 the birth rate per 1,000 in the city of Troy, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health, was 9.8 per thousand residents (this is less than the state’s and far less than Detroit’s 14). Those under 5 years of age for males made up 5.5 percent of the male population, and females under the age of 5 made up 5.3 percent of the female population.

Wayne County has highest rate of reported domestic violence incidents in Southeastern Michigan

According to the Michigan State Police, in every county in the region in 2013 the percentage of reported female victims was higher than the percentage of reported male victims. One reason for this is because men and boys are less likely to report domestic violence. Wayne County had the highest percentage of female victims in the region at 75.7%, along with the highest rate of domestic violence incidents.

In Southeastern Michigan, the most common relationship a domestic violence victim had with their abuser was being their was their boyfriend or girlfriend; in some cases the relationship also involved living together. Although this was the most common relationship, it does not discount the victims who experienced abuse from their spouse, child, sibling, parent, grandparent or grandchild. Domestic violence victims tend to have long-term relationships with their abusers.

The information described above and throughout this post is from the annual report the Michigan State Police (MSP) releases, detailing the number of domestic violence incidents by county. According to the MSP, domestic violence is “the occurrence of any of the following acts by a person that is not an act of self-defense: causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to a family or household member; placing a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm; causing or attempting to cause a family or household member to engage in involuntary sexual activity by force, threat of force, or duress; and/or engaging in activity toward a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed, or molested.”

According to the Michigan State Police, “the term domestic violence is a pattern of learned behavior in which one person uses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse to control another person. Domestic violence can occur within relationships between spouses or former spouses, dating or formerly dating couples, individuals with a child in common, or residents or former residents of a common household.”

  • Male Victims of Violence. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved from: http://www.ncadv.org/files/MaleVictims.pdf


In 2013, Wayne County had the highest rate of domestic violence incidents in the seven county region at 1,349.5 per 100,000 residents. The other two counties in the region where the rate of domestic violence incidents was above 1,000 per 100,000 residents were Monroe (1,117) and St. Clair (1,026.7). Livingston County had the lowest rate of domestic violence incidents in 2013 at 324.9 per 100,000 residents.

The rates were calculated using the number of reported domestic violence incidents, according to the Michigan State Police, multiplying that number by 100,000 and then dividing it by the 2013 county population estimates from the American Community Survey.

In addition to having the highest rate of domestic violence incidents, Wayne County also had the highest number of reported domestic violence incidents in the region in 2013: 26,521. Monroe County had the second highest number of reported incidents with 1,698. Livingston County had the lowest number of reported domestic violence incidents at 588.


When examining the reported domestic violence incidents by the gender of reported victims, in 2013, Wayne County had the highest percentage of female victims at 75.7 percent, while Monroe County had the highest percentage of male victims at 32.2 percent. Subsequently, this means Wayne County had the lowest percentage of male victims at 24.2 percent and Monroe County had the highest at 32.2 percent. Livingston County had the second highest percentage of male victims at 31.8 percent. Monroe and Livingston counties were the only two in the region where the total percentage of reported female victims was under 90 percent.


The MSP break down victim-to-offender relationships into 20 categories. Above are the top five most occurring categories of victim-to-offender relationships in 2013 in the region, according to the MSP. For the boyfriend/girlfriend category and ex-boyfriend/girlfriend category this includes couples who currently or did live together and homosexual couples.

Of all the types of victim-to-offender relationships that existed in reported domestic violence incidents in 2013, the most common in all seven counties was a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. In Wayne County, the boyfriend/girlfriend category represented 8,498 of the total 27,297 reported relationships, or 31.1 percent, and the ex category accounted for 4,570 of the total reported relationships, or 16.7 percent. Washtenaw County had the second highest percentage of boyfriend/girlfriend victim-to-offender relationships with 805 of the 2,740, 29.4 percent, representing this category. Monroe County had the lowest percentage of boyfriend/girlfriend victim-to-victim relationships at 21.4 percent; this percentage is reflective of the 374 of the 1,745 reported boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.

When not comparing percentages, Livingston County had the overall lowest number of boyfriend/girlfriend victim-to-offender relationships at 138. There were 603 total reported relationship making the boyfriend/girlfriend victim-to-offender relationships equal 22.9 percent of the total reported relationships.

Other relationships the MSP categorized, aside from the ones represented in the chart above, include: grandparents, grandchildren, parents, step-parents, children and siblings, ex-spouses, and common-law spouses.

Note that the number of victim-offender relationships in the chart above is not equal to the number of victims shown in a prior map ,because there were incidents where there were several offenses, but only one offender, according to the Michigan State Police.

How many structures in Detroit are blighted and ready for demolition?

Detroit has embarked on one of the largest scattered site demolition projects in the world. This task is reflective of the city’s vacancy rate, which is considered one the highest in the nation (Kolko, 2013). Property values are still on the decline in Detroit, as can be seen by a more than 10 percent decrease in the city’s state equalized value (SEV) in the past year (Liu, 2014). Property values are very sensitive to such vacancies, impacting the potential for revenue generation in a city just emerging from bankruptcy. Thus, the blight demolition projects have taken center stage as the city tries to revitalize itself. Here we take a closer look at the various sources of statistics that show discrepancies in just how many structures are considered blighted and ready for demolition. We consider the policies surrounding this issue.

The first step to determining how many, and which, houses to tear down includes a complete inventory of the residential structures within the city, including an analysis of how many of those are vacant. For those structures that are determined vacant, it must then be determined how many are in such a state of disrepair and decay that they are unlikely to attract interest from someone willing to renovate and move in.

There are stark differences in the extimates of the number of vacant homes. Data Driven Detroit’s Motor City Mapping project (www.motorcitymapping.com), deployed over 100 data collectors throughout the city to survey every city lot and to rate the condition of the remaining structures including vacancy and fire damage. They identified 261,275 total structures in Detroit in 2013, and identified 48,327 as unoccupied, for a vacancy rate of 18.5 percent.[i] In 2012, which is the most recent data, the American Community Survey for the U.S. Census Bureau, estimated in its 5-year estimates that 104,143 of 363,010 housing units (not just structures) were vacant, for a rate of 28.7 percent. The Blight Removal Task Force, which was formed by the Obama administration in 2013 to recommend a course to deal with the massive amount of blight in Detroit, estimated that Detroit had 78,506 vacant structures of 380,000 for a rate of 20.7 percent; this data was collected from December 2013 to January 2014. Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service recognized 87,731 vacant addresses out of 363,045 for a rate of 21.6 percent in December of 2013. Below is a table that summarizes these figures:


Data Driven Detroit


Blight Removal Task Force




American Community Survey (5 yr estimate 2012) Total Average
Detroit Vacancy Rate


18.5 20.7 21.6 28.7 22.5

The estimates of the number of structures that should be removed is just as variable. The Motor City Mapping platform states that the need for two major repairs results in the structure as being deemed in “poor condition.” For a structure to be deemed for “suggested demolition” by Motor City Mapping it must “not appear to be structurally sound, may pose safety risks, and is generally uninhabitable. The building may be buckling, caved in, or otherwise severely compromised.” With this definition, Motor City Mapping determined 4,431 properties were rated for demolition, a rate of 1.7 percent of structures. In the same study, Motor City Mapping indicated that 6,873 structures, or 2.6 percent, had fire damage in 2013; 5,979 (2.3 percent) had become obvious dumping sites and that 27,640 (10.6 percent) structures needed boarding from intruders and the elements. By contrast, the Blight Removal Task Force recommended 40,777 structures for immediate removal, or 10.7 percent of the housing stock. The task force determines if a structure should be removed if it meets the definition of blight and where the estimated cost of rehabilitation (to code) will exceed market value or create positive economic opportunities for the neighborhood,” (Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan, pg.125). The Detroit Blight Task Force considers a property blighted if it is: a public and/or attractive nuisance; fire damaged or otherwise dangerous; has code violations posing a severe or immediate health or safety threat; is open to the elements and trespassing; is already on the city of Detroit’s demolition list; is owned or under the control of the land bank; has had utilities, plumbing, heating or sewage disconnected, destroyed, removed, or is otherwise ineffective; is a tax reverted property; has been vacant for five consecutive years and is not maintained to code (timetoendblight.com).

Data Driven Detroit Blight Removal Task Force
Recommended for demolition in 2014 4,431 40,777
Percent of housing stock 1.7% 10.7%


According to the federal, state and city government, removing these structures is essential for “neighborhood stabilization” (City of Detroit Planning and Development Department 2011, Michigan Foreclosure Task Force 2013, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2010). Demolition of of several thousand homes will be completed through the use of $52.3 million in Hardest Hit Funding. These funds, allocated by the U.S. Treasury from the Troubled Assessed Relief Problems (TARP) funds for those states hardest hit by the mortgage foreclosure crisis, must be spent by April 30, 2015 or it will be lost (Detroit Building Authority 2014). An additional investment of approximately $250 million may be awarded toward the same goal in a short period. While each state helps to tailor the local allocation of Hardest Hit Funding, most communities in Michigan and other states have elected programs that help homeowners facing foreclosure to make payments while they look for work (U.S. Department of Treasury, 2013). Other uses of this funding, besides demolitions, include property auctions and loans for renovation. More information about these programs can be found at www.buildingdetroit.com.

While the decision-makers engaged in this process appear unified on the need to use demolition to spur redevelopment, these decisions are being made in an unstable urban environment. In the short run population is still in decline, having not yet reached its nadir. Nearly 120,000 residents have left Detroit since 2008 (U.S. Census Bureau 2014). As Detroit’s population dwindles homes likely will continue to be left vacant, as the number of people moving back to Detroit is unlikely to come close to equaling the number of those who have left.

High-profile urban institutes, including the Brookings Institute, have identified Detroit’s vacant homes as an economic handicap, citing the need for demolition to equalize supply and demand in the housing market and thus stabilize property values; to resolve expensive nuisance issues related to maintaining abandoned properties; and to reduce disincentives to revitalization (Mallach 2012). Other potential benefits of a demolition policy include removal of sites of criminal activity and removal of pests such as rats, roaches and stray animals (Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan 2014, Institute of Population Health 2014).

However there are major potential downsides to this massive program of demolition. The large-scale demolition in a small area of Detroit in a short time is likely to exacerbate health problems that may be unconcerning for a single demolition. This is the case according to the Blight Removal Task Force’s own plan as well as the Health Impact Assessment funded by the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Initiative (Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan 2014, Institute of Population Health 2014). Lead and other heavy metals and toxic chemicals from the demolition will create toxic dust and aerosols that may impact neighbors by causing or triggering conditions such as lead poisoning or asthma. Lead can be ingested through dust and can also contaminate soil, especially around older buildings with flaking external paintwork, or near industrial buildings. The most prevalent risk from lead exposure is IQ deficiency in children – even with relatively low lead levels in blood, there are indications it negatively affects children’s IQ. The most vulnerable age group is children under 3 years old because of potential effects on neurological development, and because young children’s bodies more readily take up lead. Other risk groups include pregnant women and fetuses. For asthma, which is a chronic disease characterized by the swelling and narrowing of the airways to the lungs, it can be triggered by, dust, mold and volatile organic compounds (among other things), which have the potential to be emitted into the environment following demolitions. Those who experience symptoms of asthma often wheeze, have shortness of breath, a sensation of a tight chest, and cough.

In addition to the potential health risks related to mass demolitions, there is also no guarantee that if you demolish a structure, a new home will take its place. After the building has been removed, there are limited investment incentives currently in place to encourage investors to redevelop these vacant parcels, leaving the city pocked with large swaths of vacant and open land between homes in some areas. Aside from the Detroit Land Bank, where structures and vacant lands in the city are auctioned off, land will be city-owned, meaning maintenance of these vacant parcels will be the obligation of the city. This has caused problems historically for other cities, especially financially insecure cities like Detroit. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and neighboring communities that lost significant tax bases encountered similar issues of having a substantial number of abandoned properties turned over to the municipality. The problem became how to redistribute this property to other agencies or investors to reduce the maintenance burden on a city incapable of significantly expanding its staff to meet the maintenance needs.

         What would be an improvement is a strategy that reduces demolitions, while tightening the dust suppression by implementing protocols similar to those in Baltimore that call for increased deconstruction and the use of temporary barriers during demolition. This would cost more, but reduce the consequences for this generation of Detroit’s children.

In addition, more housing should be boarded so it could be rehabilitated as the city’s housing market improves. Third, housing rehabilitation should be targeted for neighborhoods that are already starting to improve as directed patrol, CompStat and other public safety interventions reduce crime and increase public safety. Within these targeted neighborhoods, home improvement would targeted around schools where safe routes have been established and educational improvement is underway. Together these measures are likely to produce an improving market as we are beginning to see in Midtown, North End, Corktown and along some stretches of East Jefferson.

[i] This is an on-going endeavor. Right now DDD is deploying data gatherers to update its data in several neighborhoods where change is particularly fast.

Detroit’s unemployment still below July’s high

  • From August 2014 to September 2014, the unemployment rate across the state remained stagnant while the City of Detroit’s increased (monthly);
  • The Purchasing Manager’s Index for Southeast Michigan increased from August 2014 to September 2014 (monthly);
  • Commodity Price Index decreased from August 2014 to September 2014 for Southeast Michigan (monthly);
  • Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties all 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, from August to September the unemployment rate for the state of Michigan remained steady at 6.7 percent. The city of Detroit a experienced slight unemployment rate increase — from 14.4 percent in August to 14.6 percent in September. The unemployment rate in Detroit has decreased 2 points since September of 2013.


From August to September the number of people employed in the City of Detroit decreased by about 109, leading to a total of to 285,018 people employed.


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 September 2013 to September 2014. During the period under consideration, the highest employment levels in the auto manufacturing and auto parts manufacturing industries occurred in June 2014, when there were 99,100 people employed in the Detroit MSA. That number dropped by 3,700 people to a total of 95,400 people employed in September; however, this is also an increase of 3,800 from the month of July.


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 September was 59.4, a positive increase of 4.6 points from the prior month and a decrease of .5 points from last year at this time.


The Commodity Price Index, which is a weighted average of selected commodity prices, was recorded at 55.7 points in September, which was 7.4 points lower than the previous month and 1.5 points higher than a year ago.


The above charts show the number of residential building permits obtained each month in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties from January 2013 until September 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.

Two of the three counties experienced a decrease in the number of building permits pulled from August 2014 to September 2014. Oakland experienced a decrease 51 building permits from August to September while Macomb County experienced a decrease of 48 and Wayne County pulled the same number of building permits in September of this year as it did last year, 54.