Where Did the Vote Break in Southeastern Michigan?

Republican areas saw marginally increased turnout between the 2012 and 2016 Presidential elections increased. The focus of that increase was southern Macomb County and the Downriver area in Wayne County. Conversely, the traditionally Democratic areas in Wayne County experienced some of the largest voter turnout decreases. Detroit saw especially large decreases.

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In Macomb County, eight of the communities experienced a voter turnout decrease between the 2012 and 2016 Presidential elections. It was Chesterfield Township that experienced the largest decrease in the county at 5.35 percent while Ray Township experienced the largest increase at 2.46 percent. Although Warren and Sterling Heights have been noted for having several precincts flip from Democratic to Republican between the two Presidential elections, both cities had areas that remained Democratic in 2016. Sterling Heights experienced a 2.7 percent voter turnout decrease in 2016 and Warren experienced a 1.5 percent decrease. St. Clair Shores is another city in southern Macomb County that flipped from Democratic to Republican and here voter turnout increased by 1.6 percent.

While the changes are complicated, it appears that areas in the county to the south that shifted to the GOP are also areas where turnout declined. Likely Democrats would have benefitted by a better Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign.

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In Oakland County we have highlighted how higher income communities like Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham flipped from being Republican in the 2012 presidential election to Democratic in the 2016 election. These communities though experienced a voter turnout decrease between the two elections, as did majority of the Oakland County communities that went Democratic in 2016. With the exceptions of Ferndale, Madison Heights and Clawson, all of the Democratic communities experienced a voter turnout decrease in 2016. Ferndale had the largest voter turnout increase in the county at 11.6 percent while Berkley had the largest decrease at 23.7 percent.

Republican communities in Oakland County weren’t exempt from experiencing a voter turnout decrease in 2016, however the decreases weren’t as widespread or large.

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Wayne County communities experienced some of the largest decreases in voter turnout in 2016, with Inkster experiencing a 26 percent decrease, River Rouge experiencing a 23 percent decrease and Redford and Detroit experiencing 11 percent decreases, each. Again, these communities all went Democratic in the 2016 election; they also went Democratic in the 2012 election.

Throughout much of Downriver though, an area that flipped from Democratic to Republican, an increase in voter turnout occurred. In that area, Rockwood had the largest increase at 7 percent. The city of Flat Rock did flip from Democratic to Republican between the two elections, but experienced a 16.36 percent voter turnout decrease.

Hamtramck and Highland Park experienced the largest voter turnout increases in Wayne County; Hamtramck had a 12 percent increase and Highland Park had an 11 percent increase. Both cities went Democratic in the 2012 and 2016 elections.

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In Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor Township had the highest voter turnout increase at 3.37 percent; this community went Democratic in both elections. The only Washtenaw County community that went Democratic in the 2016 election and experienced a voter turnout increase was Sylvan Township; it had a 0.37 percent increase. There were several Republican communities in Washtenaw County too though that experienced voter turnout increases. For example, Northfield Township experienced a 19.6 percent voter turnout decrease.

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Overall, the data shows that there were very few communities in Southeastern Michigan that experienced large voter turnout increases (above 10 percent). The marginal increases though occurred in areas that went Republican in the 2016 Presidential election, particularly in northern Macomb County, St. Clair County and the Downriver area in Wayne County.

Majority of Metro-Detroit’s Communities that Flipped Republican have Middle Class Incomes

In our last post regarding the 2016 Presidential election we highlighted what areas in Southeastern Michigan flipped from Democratic to Republican, or Republican to Democratic. The most notable switch occurred in Macomb County where, much of the southern portion of the County went from voting Democratic in 2012 to Republican in 2016. This switch was also noticeably evident in the Downriver area of Wayne County.

In the 2016, Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs (Ferndale, Royal Oak, parts of Warren, etc.), along with Ann Arbor and its surrounding cities to the east and west, had Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton as the winning candidate. However, a large share of the region went to now President Donald Trump, including all of Livingston and St. Clair counties and majority of Macomb and nearly all of Monroe counties.

To shine additional light on the 2016 Presidential election, we will now be looking at the socioeconomic characteristics of the region, alongside which Presidential candidate won where. For this post, we will be discussing median income, particularly of the areas that flipped between the 2012 and 2016 elections.

When examining the region overall, the map below shows that majority of the areas in Southeastern Michigan that flipped from Democratic to Republican have a mid-range ($45,000-$70,000) median income. As we get further into the details of the region, we see this to be a defining factor for this group of precincts. Of the areas that have remained Republican, median incomes range from between $45,000 and to over $100,000. Of the areas that remained Democratic the median incomes range from about $17,000 to $100,000.

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A deeper look at Macomb County shows that majority of the areas that switched from voting Democratic in 2012 to Republican in 2016 have a median income between $45,000 and $70,000. This is true for St. Clair Shores, Sterling Heights and parts of Chesterfield, Lenox, Harrison and Clinton townships, all of which had at least one precinct flip. In the northern part of Macomb County, which voted Republican in 2012 and 2016, the median income is above $70,000.

While portions of Warren also flipped from Democratic to Republican, it is categorized as having a median income below $45,000. But, as noted earlier, the city’s median income is $44,000.

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In Oakland County, there were some high income areas-Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham-that flipped to Democratic. However, we see that majority of the County went Republican in 2012 and 2016, and majority of these communities have median incomes above $70,000. The communities in the southeastern portion of Oakland County (Ferndale, Royal Oak, Oak Park) have remained Democratic communities for both elections and their median incomes top out at $70,000. Pleasant Ridge and Huntington Woods are two higher income (above $70,000) communities in that portion of the County that have traditionally gone Democratic.

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As noted earlier, it was the Downriver portion of Wayne County that flipped from Democratic to Republican for the 2016 election. In this portion of the County (Trenton, Woodhaven, Riverview, Flatrock, Gibraltar, Rockwood, etc.) 10 of the communities have a median income between $45,000 and $70,000. Parts of Taylor (median income below $45,000) and Brownstown (median income between $70,000 and $100,000) also switched.

Throughout Wayne County, median incomes vary greatly, with communities located on the County’s north eastside (Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park and Ecorse, etc.) having a median incomes below $45,000 and communities on the northwest side (Northville, Canton, Livonia) having median incomes above $70,000. Communities with median incomes between the two extremes are also scattered throughout the county. In Wayne County, of the 14 communities with median incomes above $70,000, 10 had a large Republican turnout. Of that 10, four showed precincts that flipped from Democratic to Republican, while the rest remained Republican between 2012 and 2016.

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In Washtenaw County, there are no communities that have a median income less than $45,000. Of the four that had precincts flip from Democratic to Republican between the two elections, the median incomes range between $67,000 (Northfield) and $94,000 (Dexter).

Of the communities that with precincts that flipped from Republican to Democratic, five had median incomes above $70,000 and one had a median income at $69,000.

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By examining the election data alongside median income data, we are able to determine there were 32 communities with median incomes between $45,000 and $70,000 with at least one precinct that flipped from Democratic to Republican between the 2012 and 2016 elections. When the opposite occurred-an area flipped from Republican to Democratic-the median income of that area was above $70,000.

Next week we will look at the election outcomes while also looking at the racial makeup of Southeastern Michigan’s communities.

Where Did the RTA Fail in Southeastern Michigan?

In November 2016 the concept of regional transportation in Southeastern Michigan lost again. On the Nov. 8 ballot was a question asking residents of Macomb, Oakland Wayne (including Detroit) and Washtenaw counties if they would fund a 1.2 mill tax (about $120 a year for a homes with a taxable value of $100,000) for 20 years.

If passed, the millage would have created main transportation routes along Woodward, Gratiot and Michigan avenues (some of which would have eventually used Bus Rapid Transit), along with connector lines going east to west throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties. However, only Wayne and Washtenaw counties supported the millage overall. In Oakland County the millage fell short of approval by 1,109 votes (50.1 percent of voters voted against it) and in Macomb County the measure failed with 60 percent of voters voting against it.

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Currently in Southeastern Michigan, public transportation is fragmented, at best. Parts of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are serviced by the Suburban Mobility Authority of Regional Transit (SMART), a transportation system that was created in 1967. However, in Oakland and Wayne counties communities can opt-out of the system, meaning they do not need to support its funding or have routes accessible in their community. Macomb County, through legislation passed by the County Board of Commissioners, is an entirely opt-in community. This means either the majority of the county supports SMART funding when it goes up for renewal and/or increases or it doesn’t; the county as a whole has historically supported SMART.

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Despite Macomb County being completely opt-in for SMART, only one municipality supported the RTA millage in November; it was Mount Clemens-the county seat. According to the Macomb County Clerk’s Department 55 percent of voters in Mount Clemens supported the millage and 45 percent voted against it.

In Oakland County, 23 of the 51 municipalities in the region supported the RTA millage, with the inner-ring suburbs like Ferndale (72% yes), Pleasant Ridge (74% yes) and Huntington Woods (76% percent yes) showing the highest support. Unlike Macomb County, Oakland County is not an entirely “opt-in” community for SMART, meaning individual municipalities decide whether they want to fund/participate in the region’s current form of public transportation. Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Huntington Woods all opt-into SMART, as do some of the Oakland County communities that were just above 50 percent of voters supporting the RTA millage; these communities include Bloomfield Township and Birmingham. Troy and Bloomfield Hills are two communities in Oakland County though that participate in SMART but did not approve the RTA millage.

In Wayne County, where there are SMART routes and where the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) operates, communities like Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Dearborn and Redford Township (which all participate in SMART) voted to approve the RTA millage. However, communities on the western side of the county and a majority of the downriver communities (despite some participating in SMART-like Trenton) did not approve of the transportation millage. Overall, 53 percent of Wayne County voters voted to approve the RTA millage.

Washtenaw County does not participate in SMART (the transit system is limited to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties) but it does have the Ann Arbor Transit Authority (AATA). Of those who voted on this measure, 53 percent supported the millage in the county. Overall, eight of the 27 communities in the county supported the millage. However, those with the highest populations (Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti) showed high support for the regional transportation tax.

Despite not having a long-term funding mechanism, the RTA currently operates RefleX, which is a supplemental ride system along Woodward and Gratiot avenues; these services did not eliminate any SMART or DDOT stops/lines. However, the RTA is only funded by the State through Sept. 30, 2017. After that though, its future is uncertain. With the regional transportation millage failing, the RTA is left without a solid funding source and cannot go to the voters with another tax proposal until 2018. According to Public Act 387 of 2012 (which created the RTA), the RTA can receive money through voter approved millage funding and/or an additional fee that may accompany state driver registration fees. Ballot initiatives can only be placed on ballots during presidential or gubernatorial elections.

Members of the RTA Board of Directors or Executive Staff have not publicly stated their future plans or ideas for funding mechanisms. While funding mechanisms would need to be identified, negotiating interlocal agreements between communities that want transit might be an incremental means of supplementing the fragmented systems currently in place. For example, there are no direct public transportation routes between Ann Arbor and Detroit[1] even though Ann Arbor, Detroit and DTW are the most desired routes, according to surveys. Both Wayne and Washtenaw Counties voted for the RTA, so it seems feasible that enterprising public officials in those two counties could negotiate an agreement to move forward on creating services, knowing both that their residents voted for services and that they want those routes.

[1] It might be possible for an ambitious soul to take a bus from Ann Arbor to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) and then shift to a SMART bus and transfer to a DDOT bus into Detroit.
[1] It might be possible for an ambitious soul to take a bus from Ann Arbor to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) and then shift to a SMART bus and transfer to a DDOT bus into Detroit.

Southeastern Michigan Economy Gaining Strength

  • The unemployment rate across the state remained stagnant while the rate in the city of Detroit decreased (monthly);
  • The number of employed Detroit residents increased, (monthly);
  • The Purchasing Manager’s Index for Southeastern Michigan remains strong, especially after increasing 7 points (monthly);
  • The Commodity Price Index remained the same (monthly);
  • The Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area shows home prices continue to increase monthly and annually.

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According to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan slightly increased to 4.7 in October of 2016 from 4.6 the previous month. However, unemployment in the City of Detroit decreased to 11.1 in September, from 12.4 the previous month. The September unemployment rate in 2016 was 0.4 points lower than it was in September of 2015.

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In September of 2016 the number of employed Detroit residents rose to 221,238, an increase of 2,314 from August. Between September of 2016 and September of 2015 there was a total increase of 10,012 employed Detroit residents, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

While the number of employed Detroit residents increased between August and September the labor force decreased by 1,067. In August the labor force was reported to be 250,047 and in September it was reported to be 248,971.

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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 indicates the economy is expanding.

According to the most recent data released on Southeast Michigan’s Manager’s Index, the PMI for October 2016 was 67.2, an increase of 7 points from the prior month. The October 2016 PMI was an increase of 8.4 from the previous year.  With this increase, the PMI is considered to be strong, particularly because it has remained above 50 since June of 2014. Much of this growth, according to the Institute of Supply Management of Southeastern Michigan, is due to the resurgence of the auto sector in the region.

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The October 2016 Commodity Price Index decreased 0.2 points from September but increased 3.2 points from the prior year. The three month average for the Commodity Price Index was 48, which the Institute of Supply Management of Southeastern Michigan states is good for short-term profits.

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The above charts show the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $109,660 in August 2016. This was an increase from $103,750 from August of 2015 and an increase from $98,720 from August of 2014.

Metro-Detroit Women Less Represented on Elected Bodies

While women make up 51 percent of the Nation’s population, they do not hold at least 50 percent of the elected positions. This is true at the national level where women currently hold less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress. In Michigan women make up 20 percent of the state legislature (women currently hold 31 of the 148 seats). Digging beyond elected positions at the national and state level, we see that at the local level in Southeastern Michigan women generally hold between 25-50 percent of the elected seats in a municipality.

The data used for the maps represent individuals currently holding office; the maps do not reflect who was elected to serve beginning in 2017. Municipalities with an “NA” have that designation because the information could not be found.

In Southeastern Michigan there are nine municipalities where there are no women currently sitting on the city council or township board. The majority of the region though has elected bodies where women make up 25 to 50 percent of the council or board. Greenwood Township in St. Clair County is the only municipality in the region with an entirely female board. In Greenwood Township the board is made up of five positions-supervisor, clerk, treasurer and two trustees-each of which is currently held by a female. Of all the counties in the region, St. Clair County has the highest percentage of municipalities where more than 50 percent of a township board or city council is made up of women. In Wayne County, the average percentage of women holding a seat on a township board or city council is 31 percent; three of the municipalities with no women elected to the public body are located in Wayne County. In Detroit, 44 percent of the City Council is made up of women.

In the second map below we see that women are less represented in the top leadership roles of elected bodies of a township board or city council. Of the about 220 municipalities in Southeastern Michigan only 29 have women serving as a Township Supervisor or a Mayor. Wayne County had the bulk of these women; there are currently eight municipalities there with a woman township supervisor or mayor. In Oakland County there are six municipalities with women serving as a township supervisor or mayor and in Macomb County there are five. Monroe and St. Clair counties both had the least amount of women elected to serve in such roles. There are only two municipalities in each county with women serving as a township supervisor or mayor.

While there are pockets of Southeastern Michigan where women are more represented on local elected bodies than those in Congress or in the Michigan Legislature, the overall trend still shows that women typically make up less than 50 percent of an elected body. Although not an elected position, women are also less represented in leadership roles when it comes to local government administration. In a future post we will look at what sex of city managers and top administrators of local municipalities.

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Southeastern Michigan Counties Hold Power in Regional Authorities

In Southeastern Michigan there are eight main regional governing bodies, most of which rely heavily on the counties to fill out the structures. These governing bodies are: the Huron Metro-Parks, the Detroit Institute of Arts Authority (one in each Macomb, Oakland, Wayne), the Detroit Zoo Authority (one in each Macomb, Oakland, Wayne), the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit, the Great Lakes Water Authority, the Regional Transit Authority and the Detroit Regional Convention Center Authority and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).

Each of these regional governing bodies are made up of individuals who have been either appointed by a County Board of Commissioners, a County Executive, or a combination of both. County Executives have the most appointment authority. With the exception of SEMCOG and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks County Executives have some type of appointment authority with each regional body. This power, for both the counties and the County Executives, is one of the structural patterns that exists in this region’s fragmented group of regional authorities. The City of Detroit Mayor and the Governor have roles in the various authorities, but to a much lesser extent.

Another pattern that exists is that none of these regional bodies allow for their seats to be filled by elections, causing a lack of accountability and an increased ability for personal interests to be pursued. Instead of electing individuals to govern these public bodies, dozens of public officials are hand picking individual candidates to fill the seats. This process, for each regional authority, allows for stakeholders to pursue these new roles to exercise their influence over the governing body. This new layer of politics is also coupled with the fact that the elected officials, particularly county officials, can further their personal agendas with the appointing powers they have been given in this rise of fragmented regionalism.

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With eight various regional authorities now overseeing the governance of everything from our cultural institutions to water, the way in which these bodies are structured in terms of members vary greatly. For example, when looking at the Detroit Institute of Arts authorities for the counties (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne) none of the three have the same number of individuals on their board (click here for the history of the art authorities). Despite that each board has been set up for the same purpose-to oversee the DIA millage founds levied in their county-how they are structured vastly varies. In Wayne County, the Board of Commissioners have the authority to appoint six of the nine members; the Board then confirms the Wayne County Executives three appointments. In Oakland County the Board Chair appoints three members to the Art Authority and the County Executive appoints two. In Macomb County there is a seven member board, the County Board Chair appoints two members, the County Executive appoints two members and three members are appointed by the County Executive, with approval from the Board of Commissioners.

The Detroit Zoo is the only other regional entity with three different boards (one per county in which the operational millage is levied) that serve as its overall governing authority. The number of members who serve on each County board for zoo does not vary, but a look at the total number of representatives on each board, whether it be a Zoo Authority or SEMCOG greatly varies between 5 members to 47 members (SEMCOG is the only one with 46 members). The total number of representatives on each regional authority is shown in the chart above.

The legislations that created other regional authorities states each authority will only have a single governing body. However, even with those bodies we see the number of representatives vary, as do appointing authorities, which are often times defined in the body’s articles of incorporation.

These varying structures and appointment authorities again show the fragmented nature of our regional authorities. Until the financial downfall of Detroit began regionalism never strongly existed in Metro-Detroit. However, that has since changed as these bodies emerged out of economic and functional necessities.

Due to the manner in which these regional governing bodies emerged ( for more historical context click here) there is no cross functional consolidation of the kind envisioned by proponents of metropolitan governance. This functional differentiation is consistent with the polycentric nature of metropolitan Detroit, the decades-long animosity between Detroit and its neighbors, and persisting racial tensions.

 

For additional historical context on the topic of regionalism in Southeastern Michigan, below is a table highlighting which state legislations gave way to each regional authority.

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Rent Costs Increase throughout Michigan between 2000-2014

In 2014 there were 122 different communities in the state of Michigan with gross median rental costs above $1,000; Bloomfield Hills topped this list with a gross median rent price of $2,001. Despite this community being at the top of the median gross rental cost list for the state it experienced a 5 percent median rental price decrease between 2000 and 2014. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in 2014 there were 72 different Michigan communities with median gross rental prices under $500 a month; Rose City in Ogemaw County had the lowest gross median rental cost at $294 per month. Like Bloomfield Hills, Rose City also experienced a decrease in its median gross rental cost between 2000 and 2014. However, for Rose City that decrease was much greater; there was a 50 percent median gross rental cost decrease between 2000 and 2014.

On a national basis, in 2014 the gross median rental cost was $920 and 41 percent of rental units throughout the U.S. had a gross median rental price above $1,000; 12.1 percent of the rental units in the U.S. had gross median rental costs below $500.

For this post, data from the year 2000 is from the decennial census while the 2014 data is from the 5 year American Community Survey. Additionally, when comparing gross median rent data between 2000 and 2014 (as seen in the second map) the 2000 rent prices were adjusted to reflect 2014 dollars so a more accurate reflection of the changes could be presented.

Gross rent is defined as the monthly amount of rent plus the estimated amount of utilities and fuel.

MedGrossRent2014

The map above shows the range of median gross rental costs throughout the state of Michigan in 2014. Looking at the highest bound of rents–$1,275 and there were 20 communities throughout the state, 13 of which were located in Southeastern Michigan and seven of which were located in Oakland County. Of those in the region, two were located in Wayne County-Grosse Pointe Shores and Grosse Pointe Farms. As noted, there were over 100 communities with gross rental prices above $1,000 in Michigan in 2014.

Regionally, there were also five communities on the lower end of the spectrum, with gross median rental costs below $625. The city of Highland Park was the only one located in Wayne County, with a gross median rent of $624. The city of Center Line had the lowest gross median rental cost in the region at $492.

The city of Detroit had a gross median rental cost of $756 in 2014. This was in the 42 percentile of gross median rental prices throughout the state. Detroit’s gross median rental cost was higher than more than 50 percent of the other communities in the state.

ChangeRent00to14

In total, there were 80 Michigan communities with gross median rental price increases above 50 percent between 2000 and 2014 (These are the communities for which there was full data for comparison). Of those 80 communities, four were located in the Southeastern Michigan region, two of which were located in Oakland County. Of those communities, Orchard Lake Township had the highest percentage change in gross median rent at 117 percent. In 2014 the gross median rent in the township was $1,909 and in 2000 (in adjusted 2014 numbers) the gross median rent was $879 ($635 in 2000 dollars).

Cross Village Township in Emmett County had the largest overall gross median rental cost increase between 2000 and 2014 (in 2014 dollars) at 132 percent. In 2014 the gross median rental price in the township was $915 while in 2000 the price (in 2014 dollars) was $415 (equivalent to $300 in non-adjusted 2000 dollars). It should be noted though that this Lake Michigan town had a population of 294 in 2014, meaning that a small number of large increases in rent could produce the large reported change in the median.

Of the 27 communities in Michigan with a decrease in gross median rental costs between 2000 and 2014 for which full data was available for comparison, only two were located in Southeastern Michigan. These communities-Rose and Sylvan Lake townships in Oakland County and Deerfield Township in Livingston County-experienced rental rate decreases at 1.5 percent, 2.7 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Between 2000 and 2014 the city of Detroit’s gross median rental cost increased by 12 percent. Detroit’s gross median rental cost increase was higher than about 70 percent of the other Michigan communities between 2000 and 2014 (when comparing in 2014 dollars). While not depicted in either of the maps, it was reported on July 23 2016 by the Detroit News that the housing market in Downtown Detroit continues to soar, with average rents increasing more that 11 percent since 2011 in that area of the city. According to the article, the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Downtown Detroit is $1,359.

Overall, about 65 percent of the state’s cities or townships had gross median rental cost increases between 2000 and 2014, when dollars were adjusted for comparison. Various reasons may explain the overall increase in gross median rental costs (in comparable dollars) throughout the state, the most likely of which is greater demand. The 2008-2009 recession produced a large uptick in foreclosures, nationally and throughout the state. With this, many people were left looking for affordable rental units. With an increase in demand comes an increase in price. In a future post we will discuss the overall change in rental rates throughout Southeastern Michigan between 2000, 2010 and 2014, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau we do know that on a national basis the recession produced a greater demand in rental units. Since gross median rent also includes the estimated cost of utilities and fuel, increases in energy costs overtime are also likely contributors to the overall increase.

Locals Push Ahead as Michigan Takes Steps Backward for LGBT Inclusivity

Just over a year ago love won nationwide when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. County courthouses across Michigan began issuing marriage licenses to those who wanted a legally recognized union, despite their sexual orientation and gender identity. However, even such a monumental move toward equality didn’t serve as a catalyst for the State of Michigan to make strides to secure other basic human rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. In fact, state level statutes have failed to recognize equality for the LGBT community, whereas at the local level various officials are working to ensure comprehensive civil rights policies exist in the areas they have jurisdiction over.

Currently, there are 46 Michigan cities and counties, combined, which provide some type of employment and/or housing discrimination protection to the LGBT community. Fourteen of these local government entities, including three counties, are located in Southeastern Michigan. Just in Southeastern Michigan, those 11 communities with inclusive non-discrimination policies make up 23 percent of the region’s population. The three counties with such policies-Macomb, Washtenaw and Wayne-make up 64 percent of the population. But, while these efforts deserve to be applauded, many of the policies are by no means comprehensive. At the municipal level expanded civil rights policies are to be adhered to by all employers and/or housing providers. This isn’t necessarily the case at the county level though. Macomb County’s human rights policy is only extended to the county’s 2,200 current and potential employees; its contracting policy doesn’t even reflect the changes.

Both historical and recent policies, and lack thereof, at the state level have created a culture that lacks inclusion and basic human rights protections. Currently the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act (the state’s non-discrimination policy) does not include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Attempts to amend this statewide civil rights act have occurred since 1973 (a year after East Lansing and Ann Arbor adopted their policies), the most recent being 2014. The proposed 2014 amendments aimed to add exactly what is missing, however those amendments were never approved in the legislature. This lack of action and support for basic human rights continues to leave Michigan without a blanket discrimination protection for the LGBT community and a political gesture toward inclusivity.

Although the legislature failed take action on the Elliott Larsen Act, in the summer of 2015 three Religious Freedom Adoption bills became law, allowing religious organizations to deny placement of a child in a home based on religious grounds. These bills did not have direct language against the LGBT community but it can be argued they are, at least in part, targeted at by these bills. State Rep. Andrea LaFontaine said the bills were meant to protect the public-private partnership that allows Michigan to have an 80 percent adoption rate. She said,  by making the then proposed bills law, no agency would have to choose “between their faith and helping children.” The Human Rights Campaign said these laws make it even more difficult for LGBT couples to adopt, particularly as the Michigan Catholic Conference and Bethany Christian Services make up 25-30 percent of adoptions that occur in Michigan, according to information provided by Gov. Snyder’s office to the Washington Blade (link). These laws may have protected those public-private partnerships, but they also opened up another avenue for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Not even a year later it seems another door toward discriminatory practices could open. Proposed House Bill 5717 and Senate Bill 993, which were introduced to the Legislature a few months ago, aim to keep the use of public school restrooms restricted to those with the same biological sex; SB 993 goes as far as relying on chromosomes). Anatomy and gender are not one in the same, and while the supporters of these bills claim they are trying to protect the children, the effect is likely to be discrimination against them.

Michigan citizens do not have access to fair employment, housing and family planning options because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, and that soon may be extended to the use of the restroom. Yes, there have been concentrated attempts at the local level to broaden access to these basic human rights for over 30 years. However, some of the State’s elected leaders continue to build walls, including between children, even as local government entities and the nation tirelessly work toward acceptance and inclusivity.

Below is a timeline and a map showing the most recent years in which a Michigan municipality implemented a more comprehensive non-discrimination policy that addresses equal employment and/or housing rights based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Items to note:

  • East Lansing was the first local government entity in the nation to enact to include sexual orientation in its civil rights protections. East Lansing expanded its original 1972 policy that provided employment protections based on sexual orientation to include housing protections in 1986 and to include gender identity in 2005. Since 2005 was the most recent policy amendment East Lansing is listed under 2005 in the timeline and on the map.
  • Ann Arbor adopted policies that provided residents employment and housing protections in 1972; in 1999 it expanded those protections to include gender identity. Ann Arbor is listed as amending its policies in 1999, not 1972, because that was the most recent change.
  • Detroit updated its initial 1979 employment and housing protections beyond sexual orientation to include gender identity in 2008. Detroit is listed as adopting comprehensive non-discrimination policies in 2008 because, again, that was the most recent year they were updated.

Slide14 LGBT

Zippia: Michigan’s Living Wage is $49K

Using MIT’s living wage index, the website Zippia created a website showing what the living wage in every U.S. state is. According to the website, to support two adults and one child in the state of Michigan it costs $49,000. This put Michigan in the third quintile. Illinois and Wisconsin both had higher living wage costs, $51,000 and $52,000 respectively, while Indiana and Ohio had lower living wage costs, $47,000 and $46,000, respectively.

To read the article and view the map click here.

Suicide, Substance Use Causing Increased Mortality Rates Among White, Middle-aged Men

Suicide rates are increasing and locally the number of suicides were either highest among those 20-44 or 45-74, as detailed in a recent Drawing Detroit blog post. According to a recent New York Times article, suicide is a cause of death that is not only growing in Southeastern Michigan, but nationally. Throughout the state of Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death for white males between the ages of 35 and 49 (244 suicides total).

The article details recent research conducted by Princeton Economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case, which concludes that the rising death rates among middle-aged white men are being caused by suicides and issues related to substance use. According to the article, the mortality rate for white Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people. While the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services does not detail mortality rates by race, age and education level explicitly on its website, it does show that the mortality rate from white males between the ages of 45 and 54 increased from 469.7 to 494.4 between 2000 and 2013. Just as the death rate for white American males is increasing nationally, Michigan is also experiencing the plight.

While suicide rates have contributed to the growing mortality rate for this segment of the population, Deaton and Case found that suicide coupled with deaths caused by drug use and alcohol poisoning are what explained the increased mortality rate.

No direct explanations were discovered for the increase in suicide deaths and deaths caused by drug and alcohol use, however, Deaton found that increases in mortality rates for middle aged white men were parallel with the same population’s reports on distress, pain and poor health. This correlation, he said, could be used a rationale for the increase in the type of deaths.

 

For more on this article click here.

To learn more about suicide rates in Southeastern Michigan click here.