Detroit was once the symbol of the mighty industrial power of America. It was the home of the "Big Three" American car companies that dominated car production around the world. It was American's success at developing a large industrial middle class.
Today one finds articles like the Guardian's "The death of a great American city: why does anyone still live in Detroit?" So what has happened to what was once one of the greatest Rust Belt cities? The story of Detroit is a much larger tale of what has been happening in the city of Gary in Indiana - a ghost town in the making.
The City Of Detroit Vs Metro Detroit
The first thing that should be noted is that the City of Detroit is not the same as the urban or the metropolitan area. While the city itself today has only 640,000 inhabitants, the metropolitan area has some 4.3 million inhabitants and this article is only about the City of Detroit itself. The metropolitan area (called Metro Detroit) has many thriving suburbs.
- Size: Metro Detroit with 4.3 Million People Is The Second Largest City In The Midwest After Chicago
Much of the decline is not been by people leaving Metro Detroit but by people leaving the City of Detroit for the suburbs.
The Rise and The Decline of Detroit
Detroit was founded by French settlers in 1701 as Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit. It went on to grow to be the fourth largest city in the United States in 1920 (after New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia). As it become ever more industrialized the Detroit River became the busiest commercial hub in the world - its freight throughput was over 3 times that of New York and around 4 times that of London.
- Founded: By French Settlers In 1701
- Fourth Largest: Detroit Became The Fourth Largest City In America
Detroit's decay began in the 1940s with the loss of jobs in the auto industry, rapid suburbanization, and other things. Soon the city found itself in an irreversible state of urban decay. The city's population peaked in 1950 with a population of 1.85 million but in 2020 that had fallen to only 640,000 - that's a fall from around 700,000 in the 2010 census.
- Peak Population: 1.85 Million
- Last Census: 640,000 (2020)
- Decline: Around 65% of The Population
Its decline led to the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.
- The "Big Three": General Motors, Ford, Chrysler (Now Stellantis North America) - Fast Being Challenged By Telsa
Today only around a third of its population remains to call Detroit home. The decline has continued despite several large-scale revitalizations.
One can visit Detroit and the once bustling, but now abandoned resorts of the Catskills and decide for oneself which is creepier.
High Crime Rates In Detroit
In Detroit, local crime rates are among the highest in the nation (although the city's overall crime rate has been declining in recent years).
- Most Dangerous: Detroit Is Regarded As The Most Dangerous City In The United States
In 2015 about half of all the homicides in the state of Michigan were in Detroit. And even though its homicide rate has been declining, according to World Population Review, it remains the most dangerous city in America based on 2018 data. It is the only midsized or large city in the USA with a violent crime rate of over 2,000 incidents per 100,000 people. They also report that 37.9% of residents are living below the poverty line.
Attempts At Revitalization and UNSECO Listing
The city is seeking to reinvent itself and the city is making process of demolishing and ridding the city of all the abandoned homes that are past the point of being rehabilitated.
Despite its status as the king of the Rust Belt, the city is also known for its diverse culture and its influence, particularly in music. In 2015 Detroit become the first American UNSECO listed city and was called a "City of Design."
- UNSECO Listed: Detroit Is UNSECO Listed As a "City of Design"
There has been talk of a resurgence since the late 2010s with The New York Times even running the article "Detroit: The Most Exciting City in America?" in 2017. This is due to private and public investment that is serving to revitalize the city's social and economic dynamics. But be that as it may, Detroit's population continued to slip by almost another 10% over the 2010s.
- Tourism: Tourism Is Actually A Big Thing In The Wider City
Ironically, it is actually not one of the cities that people avoid at all costs. The metropolitan area of Detroit is one of the largest American cities and metropolitan regions to offer casino resort hotels. Tourism accounts for around 9% of the greater city's jobs.
Believe it or not, Lonely Planet named Detroit the second-best city in the world to visit in 2018.