The Fall Of Detroit: A Story Told In Pictures and Words
By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In America.com (July 27, 2013)
The city of filed for bankruptcy last week. The Motor City is reportedly $18.5 billion dollars in debt. This is the the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Looking back it was pretty clear that the city was mismanaged for decades and that led to a steady population drop over the years and a staggering loss of tax revenue. I’m not an economist, but I don’t think you need to be one to know that there will be staggering aftershocks as a result of this filing.
Detroit is not alone. They just got here first. The Wall Street Journal recently cited Oakland, Philadelphia and Chicago as other big cities with the potential to follow Detroit’s lead and file bankruptcy.
How did this happen? I don’t have enough time or space to tell you, but the keyword here is “decline.” Here are the highlights.
- In 1960, the richest per capita city in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was Detroit.
- Sixty percent (60%) of all of Detroit’s children are living in poverty.
- Fifty percent of the population has been reported to be functionally illiterate.
- Thirty-three percent (33%) of Detroit’s 140 square miles is vacant or derelict.
- Eighteen percent (18%) of the population is unemployed.
- And 10.6% of Detroit’s 713,777 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, considered themselves white.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Detroit had five decades of fiscal mismanagement, corruption and cronyism.
From all of my research I would say that the main reason for Detroit’s economic problems was the loss of jobs. According to the U.S. 2010 Census data, Michigan lost 48% of all its manufacturing jobs from 2000-2010 with Detroit being impacted the hardest. This led to massive “white flight” and exits by rich folks (including Blacks) and others people of means leaving the city with a shrinking tax base. In other words, those who could afford to leave for greater opportunity elsewhere did just that leaving the city with a poorly qualified workforce and few job opportunities.
Given the economic environment around the country and the world, I hope and pray that a solution can be found to stop this economic decline and that we don’t see a spread of bankruptcies in other major U.S cities. As I read through pages of Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and newspapers and economic journals and articles, I felt compelled to tell this story in pictures and song for people who don’t have the time to do research and get the facts. Click on the video to view.
Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.”