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Census shows Detroit population loss continues; Duggan questions count

Courtesy: Andy McFarlane

The city of Detroit continued losing population over the past decade, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the latest Census count, Detroit has 639,111 people, down 10.5% from 2010. The city had more than 1.8 million people in 1950.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has staked much of his political success on whether he can reverse Detroit’s long population bleed, and immediately came out with a statement questioning the accuracy of the count.

“The Census data released today says Detroit has only 254,000 occupied households,” Duggan said. “DTE [Energy] reports there are nearly 280,000 residential households currently paying electric bills. At a minimum, the Census somehow failed to count 25,000 occupied houses with running electricity.”

Duggan said he and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) predicted an undercount last fall, based on testimony from Census workers doing door-to-door outreach. He said the city is “pursuing our legal remedies to get Detroit an accurate count.”

The 2020 Census was plagued by problems. Those ranged from a lack of door-to-door outreach because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to former President Donald Trump’s decisionto end field operations a month early.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Detroit had the lowest self-response rate to Census questionnaires among similarly-sized cities, at just 51%. Michigan’s overall self-response rate was 71%.

Census counts are critical to cities and states, providing the basis for everything from the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, to the allocation of more than $1 trillion in federal spending.

During a press conference Thursday, U.S. Census Bureau acting director Ron Jarmin saidit was “too early to speculate on undercounts or overcounts,” but that the Bureau is confident its results “meet our high data-quality standards.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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