Global View: Southeastern Michigan Income Disparities Not So Vast

In Southeastern Michigan the range of median household incomes is vast. In Highland Park the median household income is about $16,000, and only 25 miles away the city of Bloomfield Hills has a median income of about $187,000. There are only three communities in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that have a median household income above $152,000, and all three of those communities (Bloomfield Hills, Lake Angelus and Orchard Lake) are located in Oakland County. Conversely, there are about 25 communities in those three counties where the median income is less than $50,000, with most of those communities being located in Wayne County.

While the range of median incomes regionally is immense, the map below further shows just how wide that range is when looking at it from a national perspective. With a median income of about $187,000, the city of Bloomfield Hills ranks in the 90th percentile for median household income nationwide, as does the city of Lake Angelus ($166,000 median household income). Just a mere 25 miles away though, there are five cities with median household incomes that rank in only the 10th percentile nationwide. Those cities are:

  • Highland Park: $15,699
    • Ecorse: $23,556
    • Hamtramck: $24,369
    • Royal Oak Township: $26,406
    • Detroit: $27,838

A deeper look at the map below shows that most of Oakland County has households with median incomes in at least the 50th percentile nationwide. Macomb and Wayne counties are primarily made up of communities with median household incomes in the 30th and 40th percentiles nationwide.

When examining median household incomes in Southeastern Michigan through a global lens, the gap between communities like Highland Park and Bloomfield Hills does shrink. As shown in the map below, the city of Highland Park ranks in the 63rd global percentile for median household incomes and the city of Bloomfield Hills ranks in the 99th percentile. What this map shows is that on a global level, even our communities with the lowest median household incomes fare far better than many communities throughout the world.

According to the Washington Post, a $59,000 a year income ranks in the 40th national percentile but in the 91st percentile globally. About 70 percent of the U.S. population falls in the global middle class, which the Washington Post defines as being able to afford the basics (food, clothing and shelter) while also having some disposable income.

Southeastern Michigan’s average income above nation’s; Detroit’s income continues to lag

Southeastern Michigan has a median household income of about $57,000, $4,000 above the national average (about $53,000), but there are multiple communities in the region with median household incomes far below the local average. Communities within the region with the lowest median household incomes included Highland Park, Detroit and Hamtramck.

Metro-Detroit median household income

SEMichigan Median Household income 2014

In 2014 Highland Park had the lowest household median income in the region at $19,391; this is a decrease from a median household income of $21,469 in 2009. This neighbor to the City of Detroit also had 49 percent of residents living below the Federal Poverty Level ($23,850 for a family of four) in 2014. Similar to the decreased median household income for Highland Park in recent years, there has been an increase percentage of residents living below the Federal Poverty Level.

In 2014 Hamtramck had roughly the same percentage of residents as Highland Park living below the Federal Poverty Level at 49 percent, this too being an increase from 2009. It also had one of the lowest median household incomes in the region in 2014 at $25,183. The city’s 2014 median household income is about a $5,000 decrease from $30,346 in 2009. Detroit, which will be discussed further later, had a household median income above both of these cities in 2014 at $26,095. However, this median household income is still far below the average for the region, state and nation.

In 2014 the median household income for Lake Angelus was $167,083. Between Highland Park, which had the lowest median household income in the region in 2014, and Lake Angelus, which had the highest median household income, there was more than a $130,000 difference; according to our previous post, in 2009 Lake Angelus’ median household income was about $131,000. Bloomfield Township, also located in Oakland County, was another suburban community that experienced an increase in its median household income between 2009 and 2014. In 2014 Bloomfield Township’s median household income was $108,235, in 2009 it was $104,988. Other communities in the region that had a median household income above $120,000 in 2014 were Novi Township ($125,000), Bloomfield Hills ($163,462) and Orchard Lake Village ($152,625).

Despite such high median household incomes it wasn’t Oakland County with the highest median household income of the seven counties in the region, rather it was Livingston County. In 2014, Livingston County had a median household income of $73,994; Oakland County’s median household income was $66,436. Conversely, Wayne County had the lowest median household income $41,421.

Although Livingston County did not have any communities with a median household income above $120,000, 10 of 18 communities (data was not available for Fenton) had median household incomes above $70,000. Brighton Township had the highest median household income in Livingston County at $94,611 and the Howell had the lowest at $43,482. In Oakland County median household incomes ranged, by community, from $27,632 (Pontiac) to $167,083.

Detroit Median Income

Detroit’s median household income in 2014 was $26,905, a decrease from $33,754 in 2009. With incomes decreasing, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line increased from 33.2 percent in 2009 to 39.4 percent in 2014 in Detroit.

Despite there being a median income of $26,905 in Detroit there are neighborhoods in the city where the median household income ranges up to about $103,000. The neighborhoods with the highest median household incomes in Detroit are Palmer Park, Rosedale Park and Indian Village. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are several Census Tracts where the median household income in 2014 ranged between $8,733 and $15,000. The majority of these Census Tracts were located in the eastern part of the city, around lower/middle Woodward and Rosa Parks. There were also a few near Brightmoor and Chandler Park.

Overall, we see that while regionally Southeastern Michigan had a median household income above the state and national average in 2014 there are several impoverished communities in the region where the median income not only continues to decline, but the poverty rate continues to rise. Although there are pockets of wealth and poverty both located within the region, the majority of the region has a median household income between $30,000 and $90,000.

Detroit’s housing costs increasing faster than incomes

Throughout Southeastern Michigan monthly housing costs for renters are increasing generally faster than their monthly household incomes, which in many cases are actually declining, according to data from the American Community Survey. Even in areas where the renters’ incomes improvements exceeded the change in overall regional housing costs between 2010 and 2013, monthly housing costs continued to increase at a rapid pace. There were areas in the region though, particularly Oakland County, where monthly housing cost increases stayed below the monthly household income increases. However, Detroit’s overall housing costs generally increased at a faster pace than the monthly income changes (largely declines) of residents.




Between 2010 and 2013 all Oakland County communities experienced an increase in household income while many communities throughout the rest of Southeastern Michigan continued to experience a decrease in their household income. St. Clair County had the most communities where the household income decreased more than 9 percent (three-Columbus, Ira and Kimball townships) between 2010 and 2013; the only other county where a community had such an income decrease was Washtenaw with Bridgewater Township.

When just looking at renter’s income change between 2010 and 2013 we see that there were fewer households that experienced an income decrease and more that saw their incomes increase.

According to, Michigan is one of three states that suffers from housing affordability burdens, particularly in the rental realm. Incomes may be increasing throughout the state, but for renters earning minimum wage, those small increases often equate to the increases in monthly housing costs, especially as demand for rental units remains high.


RentMoreHHI (1)

Despite renters throughout the region experiencing income increases, these increases were not equal to or more than their housing costs in several communities. In St. Clair County all of the communities experienced housing cost changes above those of the renters’ monthly income. This was not unique to just St. Clair County though. Rather every county in the region, with the exception of Livingston and Oakland, had renters whose income changes weren’t keeping up with their housing cost increases. With increases in Oakland County’s renters’ income outpacing their monthly housing cost increases this could mean a number of things, including: rental prices are not increasing as quickly as places such as Detroit or Warren because demand is lower; these renters’ incomes are growing as the economy stabilizes (for places like Ferndale, Royal Oak and Rochester we see their income increases are above that of non-renters) while in areas like Detroit the median household income is lower, income growth can’t keep up with cost of housing increases.

A series of five maps drilling down into the City of Detroit (presented below) shows that pockets of the city experienced household income growth between 2010 and 2013. While there was some overlap between overall income growth and renters’ income growth, this wasn’t true for every Census Tract. One area where there was such a difference was just east of Hamtramck. Here we see that Census Tract experienced overall income growth between 2010 and 2013 but the renters there did not see their incomes increase. Renters in that area also experienced monthly housing cost increases that exceeded their income changes. In this area of the city, homeownership also appears to be more prevalent than in other areas of the city.

Throughout other parts of the city we see that the majority of Census Tracts experienced an increase in renters’ household income between 2010 and 2013. But, the increases in monthly housing cost offset most income increases. This could indicate a shift toward gentrification in some areas as long-term, lower-income renters cannot afford increasing monthly housing costs as demand for rental units in Detroit continues to grow. With a current vacancy rate of 5 percent and a desire for many suburbanites to live in areas such as Downtown, Midtown and Corktown, housing costs in the city continue to grow, according to the MetroTimes (link). It is these areas where renters experienced income growth well above the overall changes in the City of Detroit. Not every Census Tract in these neighborhoods though had renters with income changes above the overall change experienced by the city as whole.






Detroit rental units