White Population Increases in Detroit for First Time in 65 Years


Louis Aguilar and Christine MacDonald at the Detroit News report today that “Detroit’s white population up after decades of decline.” The reporters explain their analysis:

Detroit’s white population rose by nearly 8,000 residents last year, the first significant increase since 1950, according to a Detroit News analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The data, made public Wednesday, mark the first time census numbers have validated the perception that whites are returning to a city that is overwhelmingly black and one where the overall population continues to shrink.

But the article is careful to point out concerns:

[S]ome long-time Detroiters say recently arrived whites and new businesses are often wrongly portrayed as saviors of the city, and that so far, the comeback is wildly uneven.


The heavy focus on bringing residents to certain neighborhoods, potentially at the expense of others, has left some feeling that neighborhoods filled with longtime black Detroiters are being ignored.

“You are creating lopsided communities,” said Yusef Shakur, a community organizer with the group Restoring the Neighborhood back to the Hood. “You are putting all your wealth in Midtown, downtown … Woodbridge.”

The top commentator on the article, Chris Terry, makes another interesting, though anecdotal, observation:

[A]lmost none of these new urban pioneers have children. I have professional friends living downtown, Midtown and Corktown. All are well into the age of family formation, yet none have kids. Doesn’t seem like a trend that portends sustainable change if Detroit can only attract people making these choices. I pass no judgment on the choice, but the long-term question about this ought be asked.

h/t Deadline Detroit

Counting and housing the homeless: the great work of 100k homes

I recently learned that HUD requires cities to count their homeless population—once every two years in January—in order to receive federal funding. Yet as Joel John Roberts, CEO of People Assisting the Homeless, recently wrote in Huffington Post, instead of adding up the number of homeless sleeping in a given city on a given night, we should be counting down until every homeless person has housing.

This is exactly the aim of 100,000 Homes, a project of the nonprofit Community Solutions, that aims put 100,000 Americans in homes by July 2013. (HUD estimates around 111,000 people are “chronically” homeless, having lived on the street or in a shelter for a year or more.) They have a 5-step model involving (1) building a coalition of local citizens and organizations, (2) finding the homeless, (3) registering them, (4) moving them into housing, and (5) following through by providing support to ensure they stay in housing. Sounds simple enough in theory. They’ve provided a 22-page “playbook” discussing these steps in more detail. So far, the campaign has housed nearly 12,000 people in more than 110 communities.

This work is vital, and the more attention it gets, the better. See an inspiring video celebrating their two-year anniversary after the jump: Continue reading “Counting and housing the homeless: the great work of 100k homes”

Which states have the most Section 8 housing per person?

I recently used open data from HUD about public-housing inventory and Census population data to examine which states had the most Section 8 housing units per person in 2010. (Section 8 is a federally subsidized program for low-income renters.) Here’s the top 6 and bottom 6:

which states have the most section 8 housing

I’m not surprised that DC is number one, since it has the nation’s highest poverty rate. Nor am I surprised that NYC, with its relatively well-organized housing initiatives, is number two. But what about Massachusetts and North Dakota? Any ideas? Here’s a visualization of this data:

Section 8 Housing per State Map


Midwestern Black population concentrated in metro areas

In honor of Martin Luther King Day (albeit belatedly), I want to highlight some Census Bureau data about the U.S. Black population. This information comes from a 2010 Census Brief, published in September 2011, entitled “The Black Population: 2010.”

To me, the most noteworthy data in the report shows that Black populations in the North are concentrated in metro areas, especially in Michigan. In some cases, a county has a relatively low percentage of self-reported Black or African-American people, but a metro area within that county has a large percentage. This trend may not be surprising to some people, but I think the numbers are striking.

Apparently, so did the Census Bureau, which noted this trend in the report’s conclusion:

The Black population continued to be concentrated in the South and the proportion increased from 2000 to 2010. Additionally, the Black population that lived outside of the South tended to be more concentrated in metro areas. Other interesting geographic patterns include, for the largest 20 metro areas, the non-Hispanic Black alone population was more likely to live in a largest principal city relative to the non-Hispanic White alone, Hispanic, and other race group populations in 2010. The non-Hispanic Black alone population also experienced the greatest declines in the proportion living in a largest principal city from 2000 to 2010.

As shown by the Bureau’s charts, many Southern counties have large percentages of Black Americans, but in the North the percentages are relatively low.

black or african american as percent of county population

Let’s use Michigan as an example. There, the percentage of Black population for any given county never reaches above 50%. In fact, outside of the Detroit area, it never gets above 25%.

Yet a few pages later, the report includes a fascinating table ranking the places with the highest percentages of Black Americans. According to this table, Detroit’s percentage of Black Americans (including those in “combination”) is 84.3%. And in Flint, Michigan, is 59.5%. The differences between these metro percentages and the percentages for the counties they are located in are huge!

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So what’s this mean for city managers? I don’t have all the answers to that question. But I know one thing: Many counties are facing drastically differing demographics within a relatively compact geographic area. For example, Genesee County, Michigan—where Flint is located—has an estimated population of only about 425,000 and a size of 649.34 sq. miles (the mean size of a county in Michigan is estimated to be 1178.19 sq. miles on Wikipedia), yet Flint is nearly 60% Black, and the county is less than 25%.

To me, this data also shows that, in Michigan at least, there remains a color-line, and we need to remain vigilant about realizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s  dream. For another interesting article on the history and current state of race in Michigan cities see Craig Ruff’s recent article in Dome Magazine.

Census Tuesdays: The Basics

The U.S. Census Bureau website is one place cities can find data about their populations. Every Tuesday, I plan to highlight some aspect of Census data that may be particularly helpful to local communities. This week, I’m going to lay out some basic information provided by the
Census Bureau.

  1. There is an impressive mapping feature that showcases data about population, race, age, sex, and housing status—all the way down to the “census block” level (and also at larger divisions, such as townships, congressional districts, or the state as a whole).
  2. There is another helpful map (go down the page to “Redistricting Data”) that charts population change for 2000-2010 by race for states and counties, and another map (same page under “Apportionment Data” that lets you see changes in population and population density every ten years since 1910.
  3. Although not on the U.S. Census Bureau website, the New York Times has used Census data (from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) to create beautiful infographics covering race, income, housing/families, and education. I particularly liked the data on median monthly rent, changes in mortgages consuming over 30% of income, and percentages of high school/college graduates.

This data provides a treasure trove for analyzing national and local trends. I hope to provide more in depth analysis in future posts.