Duggan disputes 2020 census count that shows Detroit lost 10.5% of its population


City of Detroit - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • City of Detroit

Mayor Mike Duggan said he’s exploring “legal remedies” after the U.S. Census Bureau indicated Detroit’s population fell 10.5% in the last 10 years.

It’s the seventh straight decade that Detroit shed its population, which peaked at 1.85 million in the 1950s.

Detroit’s Black population was hit the hardest. While the Hispanic, Asian, and white populations grew over the past decade, the number of Black residents declined from about 586,000 to 500,000 between 2010 and 2020, according to the data.

As a result, Detroit no longer has the highest percentage of Black residents, as it did in 2010. Gary, Ind., and Jackson, Miss., now have larger shares of Black residents, according to the census.

But Duggan believes the census undercounted Detroit by at least 10%, noting that there are nearly 280,000 houses with current DTE Energy bills, but only 254,000 occupied houses were tallied.

At a news conference last year, Duggan and U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, criticized the Trump administration for ending the head count early and said there weren’t enough employees in the city to do an adequate job.

“This is exactly what Rep. Tlaib and I predicted on October 28th when we were joined by Census workers who shared their stories about how Detroit neighborhoods were being undercounted and were upset that the count was shut down a month before originally planned,” Duggan said in a statement Friday.

“It appears the Census Bureau has undercounted Detroit’s population by at least 10%. We will be pursuing our legal remedies to get Detroit an accurate count.”

Detroit officials have long complained that residents are undercounted in the decennial count. With thousands of vacant houses, numerous multi-family apartments, high poverty, sparse internet access, and a large population of immigrants and people of color, Detroit is the toughest city in the U.S. to count, according to an Associated Press analysis. About 86% of the city's population resides in hard-to-count neighborhoods.

For each resident missed in the census tally, the city misses out on roughly $5,000 a year for resources ranging from Medicaid and food stamps to foster care and education assistance.

An accurate count is also important because it determines whether states gain or lose congressional seats, and Michigan lost a seat in each of the last three census counts.

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