Detroit (/dɪˈtrɔɪt/, locally also /ˈdiːtrɔɪt/; French: Détroit, lit. 'strait') is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest American city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2018 estimated population of 672,662, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 142.87 square miles (370.03 km), of which 138.75 square miles (359.36 km) is land and 4.12 square miles (10.67 km) is water. Detroit is the principal city in Metro Detroit and Southeast Michigan situated in the Midwestern United States and the Great Lakes region.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only international wildlife preserve in North America, uniquely located in the heart of a major metropolitan area. The Refuge includes islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands along 48 miles (77 km) of the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie shoreline.
The city slopes gently from the northwest to southeast on a till plain composed largely of glacial and lake clay. The most notable topographical feature in the city is the Detroit Moraine, a broad clay ridge on which the older portions of Detroit and Windsor sit, rising approximately 62 feet (19 m) above the river at its highest point. The highest elevation in the city is directly north of Gorham Playground on the northwest side approximately three blocks south of 8 Mile Road, at a height of 675 to 680 feet (206 to 207 m). Detroit’s lowest elevation is along the Detroit River, at a surface height of 572 feet (174 m).
Belle Isle Park is a 982-acre (1.534 sq mi; 397 ha) island park in the Detroit River, between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. It is connected to the mainland by the MacArthur Bridge in Detroit. Belle Isle Park contains such attractions as the James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Belle Isle Conservatory, the Detroit Yacht Club on an adjacent island, a half-mile (800 m) beach, a golf course, a nature center, monuments, and gardens. The city skyline may be viewed from the island.
Three road systems cross the city: the original French template, with avenues radiating from the waterfront, and true north–south roads based on the Northwest Ordinance township system. The city is north of Windsor, Ontario. Detroit is the only major city along the Canada–US border in which one travels south in order to cross into Canada.
Detroit has four border crossings: the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel provide motor vehicle thoroughfares, with the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel providing railroad access to and from Canada. The fourth border crossing is the Detroit–Windsor Truck Ferry, near the Windsor Salt Mine and Zug Island. Near Zug Island, the southwest part of the city was developed over a 1,500-acre (610 ha) salt mine that is 1,100 feet (340 m) below the surface. The Detroit salt mine run by the Detroit Salt Company has over 100 miles (160 km) of roads within.
In the 2010 United States Census, the city had 713,777 residents, ranking it the 18th most populous city in the United States.
Of the large shrinking cities in the United States, Detroit has had the most dramatic decline in population of the past 60 years (down 1,135,791) and the second largest percentage decline (down 61.4%, second only to St. Louis, Missouri’s 62.7%). While the drop in Detroit’s population has been ongoing since 1950, the most dramatic period was the significant 25% decline between the 2000 and 2010 Census.
The population collapse has resulted in large numbers of abandoned homes and commercial buildings, and areas of the city hit hard by urban decay.
Detroit’s 713,777 residents represent 269,445 households, and 162,924 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,144.3 people per square mile (1,895/km²). There were 349,170 housing units at an average density of 2,516.5 units per square mile (971.6/km²). Housing density has declined. The city has demolished thousands of Detroit’s abandoned houses, planting some areas and in others allowing the growth of urban prairie.
Of the 269,445 households, 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 21.5% were married couples living together, 31.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 39.5% were non-families, 34.0% were made up of individuals, and 3.9% had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. Average household size was 2.59, and average family size was 3.36.
There is a wide distribution of age in the city, with 31.1% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.5 males.
According to a 2014 study, 67% of the population of the city identified themselves as Christians, with 49% professing attendance at Protestant churches, and 16% professing Roman Catholic beliefs, while 24% claim no religious affiliation. Other religions collectively make up about 8% of the population.
The loss of industrial and working-class jobs in the city has resulted in high rates of poverty and associated problems. From 2000 to 2009, the city’s estimated median household income fell from $29,526 to $26,098. As of 2010 the mean income of Detroit is below the overall U.S. average by several thousand dollars. Of every three Detroit residents, one lives in poverty. Luke Bergmann, author of Getting Ghost: Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American City, said in 2010, “Detroit is now one of the poorest big cities in the country.”
In the 2010 American Community Survey, median household income in the city was $25,787, and the median income for a family was $31,011. The per capita income for the city was $14,118. 32.3% of families had income at or below the federally defined poverty level. Out of the total population, 53.6% of those under the age of 18 and 19.8% of those 65 and older had income at or below the federally defined poverty line.
Oakland County in Metro Detroit, once rated amongst the wealthiest US counties per household, is no longer shown in the top 25 listing of Forbes magazine. But internal county statistical methods—based on measuring per capita income for counties with more than one million residents—show Oakland is still within the top 12, slipping from the 4th-most affluent such county in the U.S. in 2004 to 11th-most affluent in 2009. Detroit dominates Wayne County, which has an average household income of about $38,000, compared to Oakland County’s $62,000.
The city’s population increased more than sixfold during the first half of the 20th century, fed largely by an influx of European, Middle Eastern (Lebanese, Assyrian/Chaldean), and Southern migrants to work in the burgeoning automobile industry. In 1940, Whites were 90.4% of the city’s population. Since 1950 the city has seen a major shift in its population to the suburbs. In 1910, fewer than 6,000 blacks called the city home; in 1930 more than 120,000 blacks lived in Detroit. The thousands of African Americans who came to Detroit were part of the Great Migration of the 20th century.
Detroit remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. From the 1940s to the 1970s a second wave of black people moved to Detroit to escape Jim Crow laws in the south and find jobs. However, they soon found themselves excluded from white areas of the city—through violence, laws, and economic discrimination (e.g., redlining). White residents attacked black homes: breaking windows, starting fires, and exploding bombs. The pattern of segregation was later magnified by white migration to the suburbs. One of the implications of racial segregation, which correlates with class segregation, may be overall worse health for some populations.
While African-Americans comprised only 13 percent of Michigan’s population in 2010, they made up nearly 82 percent of Detroit’s population. The next largest population groups were Whites, at 10 percent, and Hispanics, at 6 percent. According to the 2010 Census, segregation in Detroit has decreased in absolute and in relative terms. In the first decade of the 21st century, about two-thirds of the total black population in metropolitan area resided within the city limits of Detroit. The number of integrated neighborhoods has increased from 100 in 2000 to 204 in 2010. The city has also moved down the ranking, from number one most segregated to number four. A 2011 op-ed in The New York Times attributed the decreased segregation rating to the overall exodus from the city, cautioning these areas may soon become more segregated. This pattern already happened in the 1970s, when apparent integration was actually a precursor to white flight and resegregation. Over a 60-year period, white flight occurred in the city. According to an estimate of the Michigan Metropolitan Information Center, from 2008 to 2009 the percentage of non-Hispanic White residents increased from 8.4% to 13.3%. Some empty nesters and many younger White people moved into the city while many African Americans moved to the suburbs.
Detroit has a Mexican-American population. In the early 20th century thousands of Mexicans came to Detroit to work in agricultural, automotive, and steel jobs. During the Mexican Repatriation of the 1930s many Mexicans in Detroit were willingly repatriated or forced to repatriate. By the 1940s the Mexican community began to settle what is now Mexicantown. The population significantly increased in the 1990s due to immigration from Jalisco. In 2010 Detroit had 48,679 Hispanics, including 36,452 Mexicans. The number of Hispanics was a 70% increase from the number in 1990.
After World War II, many people from Appalachia settled in Detroit. Appalachians formed communities and their children acquired southern accents. Many Lithuanians settled in Detroit during the World War II era, especially on the city’s Southwest side in the West Vernor area, where the renovated Lithuanian Hall reopened in 2006.
In 2001, 103,000 Jews, or about 1.9% of the population, were living in the Detroit area, in both Detroit and Ann Arbor.
As of 2002, of all of the municipalities in the Wayne County-Oakland County-Macomb County area, Detroit had the second largest Asian population. As of that year Detroit’s percentage of Asians was 1%, far lower than the 13.3% of Troy. By 2000 Troy had the largest Asian American population in the tricounty area, surpassing Detroit.
As of 2002 there are four areas in Detroit with significant Asian and Asian American populations. Northeast Detroit has population of Hmong with a smaller group of Lao people. A portion of Detroit next to eastern Hamtramck includes Bangladeshi Americans, Indian Americans, and Pakistani Americans; nearly all of the Bangladeshi population in Detroit lives in that area. Many of those residents own small businesses or work in blue collar jobs, and the population is mostly Muslim. The area north of Downtown Detroit; including the region around the Henry Ford Hospital, the Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University; has transient Asian national origin residents who are university students or hospital workers. Few of them have permanent residency after schooling ends. They are mostly Chinese and Indian but the population also includes Filipinos, Koreans, and Pakistanis. In Southwest Detroit and western Detroit there are smaller, scattered Asian communities including an area in the westside adjacent to Dearborn and Redford Township that has a mostly Indian Asian population, and a community of Vietnamese and Laotians in Southwest Detroit.
As of 2006 the city has one of the U.S.’s largest concentrations of Hmong Americans. In 2006, the city had about 4,000 Hmong and other Asian immigrant families. Most Hmong live east of Coleman Young Airport near Osborn High School. Hmong immigrant families generally have lower incomes than those of suburban Asian families.
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