Detroit’s population was still slowly shrink...

Detroit’s population was still slowly shrinking in 2019

That's part of why there's so much riding on the 2020 Census.

Detroit’s population was 670,031 as of July 2019, according to estimates released by the Census Bureau last Thursday. That’s down 2,946 from 2018, a larger drop than in each of the previous three years. Detroit has continued to shrink for decades — notably losing a quarter of the population between 2000 and 2010, or 238,000 people — though the rate has slowed in the last few years. 

Should we be worried about the most recent drop? Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has repeatedly said that reversing population decline is his number one goal, and what his tenure should be judged on. A growing, or a least stable, population would indicate people have faith in Detroit’s economic opportunities, safety and ability to provide services — and it would fortify the tax base the city needs for its own budget. So yeah, losing a few thousand people a year would matter.

But these latest numbers aren’t exactly set in stone. The accuracy of the estimates is more in question the farther we get from the official Census, last held in 2010. 

“You really do have to take it with a grain of salt,” Kurt Metzger, a demographer, director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit and mayor of Pleasant Ridge, told the Detroit News. “This is a clarion call for the 2020 Census. It’s absolutely critical.”

As Census workers run into pandemic-related hurdles holding up the count, local officials are pushing residents to respond. The Census population numbers are used to divvy up federal funding (according to Duggan, Detroit has lost potentially $300 million over a decade due to undercounting) and affect political representation. As of May 4, Detroit had one of the lowest response rates among large cities at 43%. You can see how your neighborhood compares here.

So if you haven’t yet filled out your census form, now’s the time. You can do it online here, even if you lost the form that was mailed to you. 

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is a contributing editor for Detour Detroit. She is the founder and executive editor of Planet Detroit, a digital media startup that tells Detroit’s environmental stories while building a community of engaged readers who are informed and empowered to act personally and publicly. She is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes, edits and produces stories about the environment, place and identity. Her recent work has been published by Detour Detroit, Belt Magazine, HuffPost, Detroit Free Press, WDET, Crains Detroit Business, Business Insider, Curbed Detroit and Model D. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked in urban planning in the local government and nonprofit sectors. She has a Master of Science in Natural Resource Ecology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninaignaczak