Saturday, July 20, 2013

Detroit Postmortem

Urban failure Detroit is a suburban success story at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Demographic mesofacts.

Subject Article: "Detroit Failed Because It Didn't Do What Cities Do."

Other Links: 1. "Bankrupt Detroit has chance to reboot."
2. "Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. Here’s how it got there."
3. "Don’t Pass on the Salt."
4. "Metropolitan Detroit’s Diverse Population: A Closer Look."
5. "Metro Detroit’s Foreign-Born Populations."
6. "The Magic of Cities."
7. "Inbreeding Homophily."

Postscript: Via Aaron Renn, Alec MacGillis at New Republic makes a similar observation about Detroit:

But there’s a good case to be made that the city’s troubles were rooted partly in the prosperity that the auto industry produced. There’s the oft-cited point that the success of the Big 3 left Detroit insufficiently diversified across other industries. Less mentioned, though, is what the city’s prosperity may have done for its demographics. When crime and racial tension began rising in big American cities in the 1960s, it was easier for white Detroiters to head for the suburbs because they had the good jobs to pay for new homes out there—not to mention that many of their jobs already were out there, at the auto plants ringing the city. In cities without this base of well-paying factory jobs, the white working class was less likely to leave in droves—Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, among others, still have substantial populations of white working class residents.

I'm curious about the change in number of jobs in the City of Detroit through the years. Like in Cleveland, did more and more of the work migrate out to the suburbs along with the residents? The focus on population does a great disservice to Detroit's problem, causing more misunderstanding than illumination. There are fewer kids per household, a worldwide demographic trend. What will more immigrants do for Detroit? Many of them would prefer to live in the suburbs, where Detroit's "arrival city" is now located.

What the bankruptcy and dramatic demographic pattern have done is reveal, in plain sight, what is going on in every city. Poor urban neighborhoods are disconnected from regional prosperity. The migration to the burbs was so complete, so successful, that only poverty remained.

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