Is Detroit still decaying?

Detroit, once known as the automobile capital of the world, has experienced dramatic ups and downs over the past several decades. The city fell on hard times starting in the 1950s and 60s as the auto industry began to decline and middle class residents moved to the suburbs. Decades of population loss, job losses, and disinvestment left parts of Detroit dilapidated, with tens of thousands of abandoned homes and buildings.

In the 21st century, Detroit has been trying to engineer an economic and cultural revival. Development efforts in the city’s downtown and midtown areas have improved infrastructure, brought new businesses, and attracted young professionals. However, large swaths of Detroit remain blighted and underdeveloped.

Is Detroit’s population still declining?

Yes, Detroit’s population is still declining overall, though at a slower pace than in previous decades.

  • Detroit population peak: 1.85 million in 1950
  • Detroit population in 2000: 951,000
  • Detroit population in 2010: 713,000
  • Detroit population in 2020: 639,000

So the city has lost over 1 million residents since its peak population in the 1950s. However, the rate of population decline has slowed in the 2010s compared to the 1990s and 2000s.

What is the current unemployment rate in Detroit?

As of October 2022, the latest month for which data is available, the unemployment rate in Detroit was 5.0%. This is down from a peak of 24.9% in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Year Unemployment Rate in Detroit
October 2019 8.6%
October 2020 13.2%
October 2021 8.0%
October 2022 5.0%

So unemployment in Detroit has fallen significantly from its peak during the pandemic, and is now lower than pre-pandemic levels. This indicates improving economic conditions in the city.

What major companies are currently headquartered in Detroit?

Some major companies still headquartered in Detroit include:

  • General Motors
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Stellantis (Chrysler)
  • Rocket Companies (Quicken Loans)
  • DTE Energy
  • Ally Financial
  • Shinola
  • Penske Corporation

So while Detroit is no longer as dominant in the auto industry as it once was, major automakers and financial companies still have headquarters in the Detroit metro area. Several other growing companies also call Detroit home.

How much investment and development is occurring in downtown Detroit?

Over $5 billion was invested in downtown Detroit between 2013 and 2018, through a mix of private investment, public funding, and philanthropic grants. Some major downtown developments in recent years include:

  • Little Caesars Arena – $862 million sports and entertainment complex
  • Hudson’s Site Redevelopment – $1.4 billion project with office, residential, event, and retail space
  • Monroe Blocks Redevelopment – $830 million mixed-use development
  • Renovation of Book Tower skyscraper – $300+ million project
  • Expansion of Detroit Medical Center – $1+ billion of new facilities

In addition, areas like Corktown, Midtown, Lafayette Park, Rivertown, Woodbridge, and Eastern Market have also seen resurgence with new restaurants, shops, offices, and homes catering to young professionals.

So downtown and adjoining neighborhoods are seeing the most investment, but greater downtown Detroit is still home to extensive vacant land and empty structures.

What percentage of Detroit land is considered vacant or abandoned?

A survey conducted by Detroit in 2017 found that over 22 percent of the city’s land was considered vacant or abandoned. That represents nearly 24 square miles within the city limits.

The vacant land is concentrated in less populated neighborhoods farther from downtown. It largely consists of vacant lots where houses have been demolished, as well as vacant buildings.

Addressing the vacant land issue remains an ongoing challenge. Initiatives like urban farms and neighborhood land banks have worked to activate some vacant properties and lots.

What is the current official unemployment rate for Detroit?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Detroit as of October 2022 was 5.0%. This represents a significant decline from peak pandemic unemployment of 24.9% in July 2020.

The current 5.0% unemployment rate indicates improving economic conditions in Detroit, as this is lower than pre-pandemic levels of around 8-9% unemployment.

How does Detroit’s unemployment rate compare to the national average?

Detroit’s current unemployment rate of 5.0% is slightly higher than the national unemployment rate across the United States. As of October 2022, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 3.7%.

So while Detroit’s job market has been improving in recent years, unemployment locally remains slightly elevated compared to broader U.S. figures. However, the gap between Detroit and national unemployment has narrowed significantly over the past decade.

What major companies have headquarters in Detroit?

Some of the major companies still headquartered in the Detroit metropolitan area include:

  • General Motors
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Stellantis (Chrysler)
  • Rocket Companies (Quicken Loans)
  • DTE Energy
  • Ally Financial
  • Shinola
  • Penske Corporation
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
  • Compuware
  • Bedrock
  • Roush Enterprises
  • Chemical Bank

Additionally, both Little Caesars and Domino’s Pizza were founded and are still headquartered in metro Detroit. The continued presence of auto manufacturers and financial companies provide an anchor for the regional economy.

What is the average home price in Detroit?

According to Zillow data, as of Q3 2022 the average home price in Detroit metro was $250,825. This represents a 15.3% year-over-year increase. For-sale inventory remains tight regionally and nationally.

For the city proper, average home prices are more affordable but rising rapidly. The average price for homes sold in Detroit in Q3 2022 was $82,750, up 22.4% from the previous year.

Low prices coupled with limited inventory and rising buyer demand are fueling sharp price appreciation, especially in certain neighborhoods like West Village, East English Village, and Palmer Woods.

What percentage of Detroit residents live below the poverty line?

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2021 an estimated 32.5% of Detroit residents lived below the poverty line. This compares to a national poverty rate of 12.8%.

However, Detroit’s poverty rate has fallen over the past decade. In 2011, the city’s poverty rate stood at 40.3%. So while still high, poverty has modestly declined in recent years.

High poverty levels remain a major challenge for Detroit. Poverty is geographically concentrated in certain neighborhoods farther from the urban core.

What is the current population of Detroit?

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Detroit’s population as of 2021 was 639,111 residents. This represents a decline from a peak of 1.85 million residents in 1950.

However, Detroit’s population decline has slowed in recent years. The city lost about 250,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, but only around 70,000 between 2010 and 2020. Increasing investment and development in the greater downtown area has helped retain and attract some new residents.

While still shrinking, Detroit’s population drop has decelerated compared to previous decades. Targeted revitalization efforts may help stabilize or grow the population in coming years.

How does Detroit’s crime rate compare to other major U.S. cities?

Detroit consistently ranks among the U.S. cities with the highest levels of violent crime. For example, according to FBI data from 2020, Detroit had the most violent crimes per capita of any city with a population over 200,000.

However, Detroit’s crime rates have fallen substantially since the early 2000s. The number of homicides in Detroit peaked at 2,200 in 1987. In 2021 there were 302 homicides in the city, still very high but well below historical peaks.

Crime remains unevenly distributed throughout Detroit, concentrated in lower-income neighborhoods. Affluent downtown and midtown areas see far less crime per capita.

Detroit Crime Rates vs. Other Major U.S. Cities, 2021

City Homicides per 100K Violent Crime per 100K
Detroit 46 1,533
Memphis 28 2,001
Baltimore 42 1,815
St. Louis 69 1,927

What percentage of Detroit’s economy is based on manufacturing today?

In the middle of the 20th century, Detroit’s economy was more than 50% driven by automobile and other manufacturing. Today, the share of manufacturing is much lower.

Based on Bureau of Economic Analysis data, manufacturing accounted for 17.7% of Detroit’s metropolitan GDP as of 2020. Healthcare accounts for the largest share at 18.5%.

So manufacturing remains an important component locally, but no longer the clear dominant industry. Detroit’s economy today is more diversified across manufacturing, healthcare, education, financial services, and technology.

How has Detroit’s downtown theater district fared in recent years?

Downtown Detroit’s theater scene has experienced a resurgence in recent decades. The city is now home to over 10 theaters and music venues that anchor the Theater District along Woodward Avenue.

Major venues include the Fox Theatre, Fisher Theatre, Masonic Temple Theatre, Detroit Opera House, Music Hall Center, Gem Theatre, and more. New restaurants, bars, and shops have also brought nightlife back to downtown areas near the theaters.

Performing arts events and concerts in the Theater District draw over 2 million visitors per year. Nonprofit and philanthropic funding has supported extensive renovation work to restore many historic theater buildings.

This growth mirrors broader efforts to redevelop downtown Detroit by attracting visitors, residents, and new businesses to the urban core.


In conclusion, while Detroit faced sharp decline between the 1950s and early 2000s, the city has shown signs of economic and cultural rebound in the 21st century. Major investments have redeveloped downtown districts into vibrant residential, commercial, and entertainment hubs. Unemployment has declined and population loss has slowed compared to previous decades.

However, Detroit continues to face major challenges. Poverty, crime, and vacant land remain high, especially outside of downtown. The city’s population decline persists despite slowing. Overall Detroit can be characterized as in recovery, with its legacy of decay not yet completely reversed but substantial progress being made in many areas.