No middle class in Detroit? New numbers, smaller still


A bit ago we got into a discussion of the existence and size of Detroit’s middle and upper class. That came after a comment by writer-ad man, unofficial Detroit ambassador  Toby Barlow in a Q&A (“Detroit has no real middle class of any substantial size and certainly has no real upper class”) and a rejoinder from writer-reader Jean Alicia Elster. We plowed through the relevant numbers of the most U.S. Census’ most recent American Community Survey and found, for instance, that if one took Detroit households of $50,000 income and up, one could aggregate a city more than twice the size of Southfield. Nothing to dismiss, yet as a percentage of Detroit’s total households, the 28 percent of $50,000 and up households, and the .6 percent of $200,000 and up households left something to be desired. The numbers were not that different from our fellow Rust Belt city Cleveland, for instance, but lagged greatly behind the Rust Belt success story of Chicago. At the time we said we hoped against hope that the 2010 census would show improvements. While the next census is still in the works, the latest numbers from the American Community Survey showed continuing erosion for Detroit and Cleveland, but only a slight dip for Chicago. The Detroit declines in the $50,000-and-up households are hardly surprising given headlines in the dailies such as:

State's income plunge sharpest in nation The Detroit News


Census: State's slide accelerated last year Detroit Free Press

Among the disturbing trends in the numbers reported by the Freep, Detroit’s poverty rate was a tad above one-quarter in 2000, hit one-third in 2008 and continued to rise to 36.4 percent in the new 2009 numbers. (The Freep’s overplay of “Detroit sees rise in white residents” on 1A is another matter, not that the story was without significance.) But for the record, here are the updated numbers for our Detroit middle-class analysis,  showing declines in the largest two of the three household income slices we looked at.
$50,000-$99,999 2006-2008 percent households $50,000-$99,999 20009 percent households
Detroit 21.1 19.4
Cleveland 21 17.6
Chicago 28 27.5
$100,000-$199,999 2006-2008 percent households $150,000-$199,999 2009 percent households
Detroit 6.1 4.5
Cleveland 5 4.5
Chicago 15 14.4
$200,000 and up 2006-2008 percent households $200,000 and up 2009 percent households
Detroit 0.6 0.7
Cleveland 0.6 0.3
Chicago 4.6 4.6
The one up-tick for Detroit, in the $200,000-plus household income category, though encouraging, it should be noted, is well within the margin of error.


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