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Quite the World, Isn't It?

Detroit, the Census, and the responsibility of a nation

A house near Detroit's Chandler Park.
The 2010 Census counts for Michigan were released last week, and it showed the City of Detroit with 714,000 residents, some 100,000 less than most predictions and 1.1 million fewer people than its peak of 1.8 million in 1950.

That collapse of Detroit is the subject of the current book project, which I'm sending off to the publisher in a few days (it's done, just have a couple of bits to clean up). But I took a break last week to write an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times about Detroit, touching on some of the grand pressures that have made it what it is. From the article:
"The collapse of Detroit has roots in intentional de-industrialization by the Big Three automakers, which in the 1950s began aggressively spider-webbing operations across the nation to produce cars closer to regional markets, and to reduce labor costs by investing in less labor-friendly places than union-heavy Detroit. Their flight was augmented by government policies that, in the 1970s and 1980s particularly, forced municipalities and states to compete with each other for jobs by offering corporate tax breaks and other inducements to keep or draw business investments, a bit of whipsawing that helped companies profit at the expense of communities.

"Racism plays a significant role too. Detroit's white flight exploded in the 1950s and '60s, after courts struck down local and federal policies that had allowed segregated housing. That was followed by middle-class flight on the part of blacks and whites as crime endemic to high-poverty, high-unemployment neighborhoods began spreading. It's significant to note that Detroit's inner-ring suburbs have been picking up African American populations as young Detroit families seek safety, stability and more reliable schools. As they run out of the city, its vast socioeconomic problems become even more distilled, more pronounced."
I encourage you to read the whole piece in this morning's LA Times. It really is a national disgrace, and a national indictment, to see what we have let Detroit become.
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