Yes, Detroit is still shrinking, but much more slowly

May 22, 2014

Let's start with the good news from today's census numbers.

Detroit Skyline
Credit Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan is growing overall, up to about 9.9 million people.

That's two straight years of growth for the state, a welcome uptick after seven years of declining population.

And some of that growth is in areas you might expect: Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and their suburbs.

Detroit itself, however, is still shrinking. It's down 10,000 people from the previous year, with just under 689,000 people now.

But there are a few silver linings in that Detroit number. For one, the city isn't seeing the mass exodus it has in recent years.

Wayne State University urban studies professor Robin Boyle says between 2000 to 2010, the city lost more than 20,000 people each year.

"So we've halved the amount of decline," he says. "Detroit is still losing population, still losing people, still losing its tax base, but it's slowing down."

And the trendier parts of the city, like Midtown and downtown, are packed. In Midtown there's a 97% occupancy rate, says Boyle.

"There is hard evidence that people are showing an evidence in living in Detroit. Now it is focused, it is pockets, it is downtown, Midtown, but it's there," he says.

Boyle says part of the reason fewer people are leaving Detroit these days could be that those who could afford to move have already left, leaving behind others who may want to go, but are stuck.