TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Hammered by the auto industry’s slump, Detroit saw its population plummet 25 percent over the past decade, according to census numbers released Tuesday that reflect the severity of an economic downturn in the only state where overall population declined.
The statistics show that the Motor City’s population fell from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 last year. Although a significant drop was expected, state demographer Ken Darga said the total is “considerably lower” than the Census Bureau’s estimate last year.
“That’s just incredible,” added Kurt Metzger, a demographer with a Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit that collects statistics used by area planners.
Detroit’s population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950, when it ranked fifth nationally. But the new numbers reflect a steady downsizing of the auto industry and an exodus of many residents to the suburbs.
Mayor Dave Bing disputed the new population data and plans to appeal. He said his city has at least 750,000 residents, which he called an important threshold for qualifying for some state and federal financial programs.
The drop-off of more than 237,000 people in Detroit factored in Michigan being the only state that suffered an overall population decline between 2000 and 2010, slipping 0.6 percent to 9,883,640. But Detroit was not solely responsible for the dubious distinction.
The population fell 18 percent in Flint, another city heavily dependent on the auto industry. Pontiac and Saginaw dropped 12 percent and 17 percent respectively.