Report: Metro Detroit immigrants don't follow typical patterns

Jul 16, 2013

A report released today on metro Detroit's foreign-born population shows between five and 15% of people in Southeastern Michigan are immigrants. The study, conducted by Global Detroit and Data Driven Detroit, shows metro Detroit's immigrants don't follow traditional patterns of foreign-born populations in urban areas.

Global Detroit published a map of foreign-born Metro Detroiters. Immigrants make up eight percent of the Southeastern Michigan area on average.
Global Detroit published a map of foreign-born Metro Detroiters. Immigrants make up eight percent of the Southeastern Michigan area on average.
Credit Global Detroit

There are more immigrants living in the suburbs than there are in the city, and there are relatively few "clustered communities." Think Chinatown or Little Italy. Both phenomenon are unusual for major cities.

Steve Tobocman is the director of Global Detroit. He says immigrants are valuable to the city, and could help Detroit get back on its feet.

"The conclusion is that if Detroit is going to be serious about population stabilization or stemming population outflows, they're going to need to invest in immigration as a strategy for revitalizing the city."

Kurt Metzger of Data Driven Detroit says immigrants are often highly educated and have high hopes for their families.

"They're here to try to reach the American Dream and to be active citizens," he said. "They're here to make sure their kids are educated and can make a life for themselves."

Tobocman says immigrants who are in the city are helping to make it a more economically healthy urban center.

"[Immigrants] have opened retail stores in badly underserved retail areas in the city of Detroit," he said. "This has created economic opportunity and neighborhood stability that has not just stabilized a handful of immigrant groups but provided value to long term Detroiters whose neighborhoods have been suffering from disinvestment and population outflows."

Global Detroit has invited immigrants in the area to tell their stories on its Tumblr. Read Faviola Lopez's story below. She's from Jalisco, Mexico and now runs Favi's Nail Salon in Detroit. She moved to the city when she was 12.

"Lopez's family members secured good jobs in the auto industry and settled in Mexicantown. 'I enrolled in school, and I didn't know any English,' she said. 'It was the hardest time of my life. I was a teenager and I wanted to be back in Mexico. I used to cry so much. Back then there weren't a lot of Hispanics, not like now.' Lopez still lives in Detroit and says opportunities for Hispanic businesses in the city are strong. 'One thing I will never do is leave Detroit,' she said. 'I think I've been so successful here with my Hispanic community that I'll never leave. I still have my house in Detroit, and I love my neighborhood.... We just want to improve our home, we just want to  improve our neighborhood. We're just here to make our life better and for our kids, too."


-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom