A billboard campaign encouraged Detroiters to fill out the 2020 Census | Steve Neavling/Detroit Metro Times
Detroit shed nearly 8,000 residents between July 2020 and July 2022, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week, but Mayor Mike Duggan says he isn’t buying it.
The population in Michigan’s largest city dropped to 620,376 during that period, a 2.7% decline from a year ago, according to the data.
Detroit now ranks as the 29th most populated city. At its peak in 1950, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the U.S. with 1.85 million people.
The city’s population has steadily shrunk since the mid-1950s.
But Duggan insisted on Thursday that the census is undercounting residents and called the bureau “a complete clown show.”
According to the mayor, the U.S. Postal Service reported an increase of 6,300 residential homes in Detroit since 2021. He also pointed to rising home prices and 25 new housing projects that are under construction “as the market struggles to keep up with the demand.”
“The only people in America who could conclude that Detroit’s population is decreasing is the Census Bureau,” Duggan said. “Maybe it’s time to move the Census Bureau under the U.S. Postal Service so it will be run by people who actually have some clue about who is living where in America.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) has also repeatedly called out the Census Bureau for undercounting residents and previously joined Duggan in calling for a more accurate tally.
“For years I’ve been raising alarms alongside other elected officials about the Census Bureau consistently undercounting Detroit’s population, and our concerns have yet to be addressed,” Tlaib told Metro Times. “I support Mayor Duggan’s efforts to ensure a full and accurate count, and I’ll continue to work to address these unacceptable shortfalls at the federal level.”
Census estimates are important because the population counts are tied to federal funding. For each resident missed in the tally, the city loses out on roughly $5,000 a year for resources ranging from Medicaid and food stamps to foster care and education assistance.
An Associated Press analysis in 2019 found that Detroit is one of the toughest cities to count because of vacant homes, multi-family apartments, high poverty, sparse internet access, and a large population of immigrants and people of color.
Detroit challenged the census count last year, claiming in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that the city’s population grew in 2021. The census estimated that Detroit lost 71,50 residents in 2021.
During the decennial count in 2020, the city’s population declined 10.5% over the past decade, according to the census.
Detroit’s Black population was hit the hardest. While the Hispanic, Asian, and white populations grew over the past decade, the number of Black residents declined from about 586,000 to 500,000 between 2010 and 2020, according to the data.
The Census Bureau acknowledged that the 2020 figures undercounted the nation’s Black population by 3.3% and the Hispanic population by 5%.
According to the decennial count, Black people account for 77.2% of the city’s overall population, compared to 82.2% in 2010, when Detroit had the highest percentage of Black residents in the country.
Duggan has vowed to reverse Detroit’s population decline, telling the Wall Street Journal in 2014 that “the single standard a mayor should be defined on is whether the population of the city is going up or down.”
In March, Metro Times featured a cover story in which we talked to 10 former Black residents about why they left and where they went, after receiving dozens of messages from readers who said they left the city.
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