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A Look at Detroit's Rise and Fall


detroit_flag_croppedDetroit’s booming car industry helped the city ascend, but now the city’s bankruptcy threatens to ruin it.  As Detroit grapples with its finances, Social Explorer examines the shifts in population and income over the past 60 years.

Detroit peaked in population size at 1.8 million people in the 1950 census.  The city population has been shrinking every decade since, and Detroit is the only city to have topped the million-people mark and then fall below it. 

The population decreased to 1,027,974 by the 1990 census, and was down to 951,270 ten years later.   By the 2010 census, the population had fallen to 713,777--less than 40 percent of the city’s one-time highpoint.  (During that same period time, the national population more than doubled from 150,697,361 to 308,745,538.)

The following maps illustrate the population shift from 1950 to 2010 at the census tract level of detail. 

1950 Detroit Population Density Map

2010 Detroit Population Density Map

Explore the maps to learn where the changes have been most dramatic.

As the Motor City’s major industries and population shifted away, so too did prosperity.  Using Social Explorer’s reporting tools, you can learn that income changed drastically in Detroit. 

In 1950, the median household income for Wayne County (where Detroit City is located) was $32,453 (adjusted to 2010 dollars), 13 percent higher than the national median income of $28,731.

In 2010, the median household income for Wayne County was $39,408, 27 percent lower than the national median income of $50,046.  

Visit Social Explorer's mapping and reporting tools to find out more about Detroit and other places around the nation.

For more, read the 2011 New York Times article citing Social Explorer's Andrew Beveridge.

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