Population Shifts Reflect Aftermath of Economic Distress, Change

Last week we examined the density of the various racial, ethnic and ancestral backgrounds in Southeastern Michigan and this week we further explore how those populations have grown or declined, regionally between 2010 and 2016. One of the fascinating results of this analysis is that it demonstrates a clear reversal in the long term trend for Caucasian population to exit Detroit. This has reversed with substantial increases in the percentage of whites in some inner city areas of Detroit. We see a similar trend in Pontiac in Oakland County. As the first map below shows, population growth above 51 percent or more occurred in the Downtown Detroit, Midtown, West Village, New Center, Boston Edison, Corktown and Palmer Park areas of Detroit. These areas have been popular areas of redevelopment in recent years. Another possible reason for this growth is that homes in Detroit, for example, cost far less than other areas of the metropolitan area, and this makes renting or home ownership feasible when it might not be, after losses of income due to the decline of industry and the job market. One note of caution—the big increases for whites occur with respect to very small base populations. So, big increases might not mean that many people.

As the second map shows, most of Detroit experienced a loss of the African American population between 2010 and 2016. While Detroit experienced a loss of the African American population, there were increases of this population in areas such as Warren, Eastpointe, Dearborn and several outer-ring suburbs. This represents a continuation of a decades long migration outward from Detroit. As job markets integrate, it may be rational for African Americans to seek to be closer to job locations in the suburbs, where, after all, job growth has been higher than in Detroit.

The same forces are in play for the Latinx population. There were also population increases above 51 percent for those of Hispanic or Latinx descent in the region’s outer-ring suburbs, as the third map below shows.

For the Arab ancestry map (the fourth map), we see that there are several areas in the region, including in much of Detroit, where this population is minimal or not present. Where it was present in Detroit, it has been rapidly declining. Conversely, the Arab ancestral population’s growth is expanding in areas of western Macomb and both the eastern and western portion of the southern half of Oakland County.

Overall these maps remind us that population changes that have been steady for decades can change in unexpected ways in just a very few years, especially after a decade of economic distress and change.

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