Incomes and poverty rates are stagnant in most of Metro Detroit’s small communities, with only a handful showing economic gains, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.
Experts say the numbers reflect a recovery that’s been slow to take hold in a state hit hard from the Great Recession.
Only seven communities saw a measurable increase in median household income and only eight saw their poverty rates drop, according to The News analysis of the new numbers, which cover a five year period from 2012-16. The News reviewed data for 133 communities under 65,000 population in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Livingston counties.
“I think this reflects the bottoming out,” said Kurt Metzger, a demographer and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit. “A few communities are getting worse, a few are getting better.”
“It just shows how slow the recovery is. It just shows we still haven’t caught up.”
The state, along with Metro Detroit counties and larger cities, have seen economic gains in the last year. But those improvements likely are not reflected yet in the five-year average data, experts say.
The census estimates released Thursday are the most detailed glimpse of economic and social changes in the nation’s smaller communities of less than 65,000 residents since the American Community Survey was launched in 2005. For these areas, the data is released in five-year averages because the census collects data through a survey and margins of errors typically are larger. The News compared the two five-year periods of 2016-2012 and 2011-2007. (More current one-year estimates for larger cities were released in September.)
EXPLORE THE DATABASE:Search Michigan communities under 65,000 for new U.S. Census economic numbers
Based on the latest data and looking at the Metro communities with income gains, two were in Oakland County: Lyon Township, $94,303, a 12 percent increase; and Independence Township, $84,211, a 10 percent increase. The three communities that saw the largest drops in poverty rates were in Livingston County, including Pinckney, where the poverty rate dropped from 11.5 percent to 4.1 percent.
“The new data show small improvement in some places, but we are not where we need to be yet, particularly for many small communities,” said Xuan Liu, manager of research and data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, in an email. “They have not benefited from the economic recovery.”
The News found 11 communities where poverty increased and 16 where incomes went down over the five-year periods, including Plymouth and Melvindale.
Melvindale City administrator Richard S. Ortiz said he wasn’t sure why the city’s poverty rate jumped from 18.3 percent to 31.6 percent. Ortiz said the city itself has been financially distressed in recent years, but the poverty increase among residents is not evident. He noted that Melvindale has a “very diverse demographic.”
“Everything seems to be the same since I’ve been here,” Ortiz said. “It is a fine town, but it’s never been an affluent community.”
Plymouth Township supervisor Kurt Heise said the 17 percent drop in median income to $78,060 shows that many families were hit by the recession. He said Plymouth is home to a lot of white-collar professionals who work in the auto industry, which took a hit between 2007 and 2009.
“It shows that nobody in Michigan was immune to the economic downturn of the last several years,” Heise said.