United States

Census Bureau Reports: Detroit Sees First Population Rise After Decades

The US Census Bureau recently released latest estimates indicating that cities in the northeastern and midwestern regions of America are seeing a slight increase in population, marking the decades' first population increase in Detroit.

The Detroit skyline is seen, May 12, 2020, in Detroit. Photo: AP

Recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that there has been a slight rise in population for cities across America’s Northeast and Midwest regions, especially Detroit marking its first population increase in decades. The South continues to dominate the nation’s demographic expansion.

Detroit, once symbolic of urban decline, has experienced a commendable uptick in population, growing by 1,852 residents from 2022 to 2023, reaching a total of 633,218 inhabitants. This milestone is significant for the city, which has grappled with a steady exodus since the 1950s, stemming from factors such as suburban migration, racial tensions, and economic downturns.

Mayor Mike Duggan appreciated the news as a long-awaited triumph, stating, “It’s a great day. It’s a day we’ve been waiting for, for 10 years.” “The city of Detroit has joined the communities in America that are growing in population according to the Census Bureau. For our national brand, it was critically important for the Census Bureau to certify us as growing,” he said.

Similar modest reversals in population decline were observed last year in other major cities of Northeast and Midwest. The Census Bureau’s estimates, however, showed the South’s continued demographic ascendancy, with 13 of the 15 fastest-growing cities located in this region, with eight in Texas alone. San Antonio, Texas, is leading the surge with a substantial increase of around 22,000 residents followed by other Southern cities, including Fort Worth, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Even though many cities are showing good growth in population, several of the largest U.S. cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, continued to experience population decreases, but at a slower pace compared to previous years. New York City saw a drop of only 77,000 residents last year, about three-fifths the numbers from the previous year. On the other hand, Los Angeles lost only 1,800 people last year and Chicago only had a population drop of 8,200 residents last year.

However, cities such as San Francisco bucked this trend, registering population growth of more than 1,200 residents in 2023 after years of decline.

At a national level, New York City retained its status as the most populous city, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago. Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia also ranked among the top 10 largest cities in the country with a population of 2.3 million, 1.7 million, and 1.6 million residents respectively.

For Detroit, the population increase reflects ongoing efforts to revitalize the city and restore the confidence in the city. The city of Detroit has taken legal action and delved into understanding the methodology behind the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates following a significant decline revealed in the 2020 decennial census. Kurt Metzger, founder of Data Driven Detroit, criticized the accuracy of the census data, highlighting the bureau's penalization of Detroit for demolitions without considering rehabilitations. The city contends that the agency subtracts residents for each demolished structure, irrespective of its prior occupancy status. The Census Bureau, however, revised population estimates in response to Detroit's objections, acknowledging the complexities of data sourcing and processing.

Despite these challenges, Mayor Duggan remains steadfast in his commitment to Detroit’s resurgence, emphasizing the city’s revitalization efforts and its potential for continued growth.

"We've had more than 10,000 vacant houses in neighborhoods get renovated and moving in families. There's apartments being built all around this city. You can go pick any neighborhood you want today, drive down the street and you'll see people on ladders working on fixing up houses. Detroit is a vibrant and growing city again, we’ve known that. But it's very helpful to our national brand to get the Census Bureau to classify us as growing."

"The 2,000 vacant houses a year are getting renovated and people are moving in," Duggan said. "Motor City Match has 167 new businesses open in this city, basically in neighborhoods where they pulled plywood off vacant storefronts. Go down East Warren near Cadieux and see what's happening. Go down McNichols, west of Livernois and see what's happening. There's one storefront after another being opened. As that happens, people move into the neighborhoods even faster because of the quality of neighborhood commercial corridor nearby."

The NFL draft set a new attendance record after more than 775,000 fans flooded downtown Detroit last month for the three-day event. Initiatives such as housing redevelopment and job creation have contributed to a renewed sense of optimism and growth.