City leaders are heralding a recent US Census Bureau report indicating significant growth in Detroit resident ’s household income, accompanied by a modest decrease in the poverty rate.
Data released earlier this month show the economic conditions of Detroiters continues to improve with most significant gains occurring over the past two years. In 2017, the city’s median household income rose 8% to $30,344 from $28,099 the year before.
That ’s compared to new national numbers released Wednesday that showed an approximately 2% increase in average household income in the United States. When adjusted for inflation, Detroit ’s increase is still double the national average.
The previous year, in 2016, Detroit saw a 7.5% increase in household income, compared to 3.2% nationally. Cumulatively since 2015, this means that the average Detroit household has seen an income increase of about $4,500 annually. In 2016, the citywide increase in household income was largely attributable to gains in the white and Hispanic communities. However, in 2017 African American households in Detroit experienced the largest increase, rising 12% from $26,759 to just under $30,000 ($29,937).
While lauding the improvements. Mayor Mike Duggan said much work remains to be done.“We ’re very pleased at the increase in household incomes,” he said. “It basically doubled the rate of the state and country. And the 12 percent increase in African American household income is a number we haven’t seen since they started keeping the statistics.”
The report also showed a modest decrease in the city poverty rate which brought it down to the lowest rate in a decade. Dropping for the second straight year, the rate now stands at 34.5%. That ’s down 1.2% from 2016, which means that about 8,000 fewer Detroiters were living in poverty in 2017. In 2016, Detroit’s poverty rate dropped more sharply by 4.1% from the previous year. The last time the poverty rate in Detroit was lower was in 2008 when it was 33.3%.
Nicole Sherard-Freeman, president and CEO of the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, said the data shows that the economic resurgence happening with all the development downtown is starting to spread elsewhere throughout the city.“The only way for poverty to move down is for incomes to move up,” she said. “So, it tells us if the opportunities are available and reaching the residents, then the residents are taking advantage of it.”
Duggan and Freeman emphasized that because of the city ’s historically high poverty rate, there was still much work to be done. He said the city’s Detroit At Work program, which has trained nearly 3,000 Detroiters for in-demand jobs since January 2017 in fields like construction, healthcare, IT, retail and hospitality has played a major role in providing residents access to well-paying jobs.
Freeman agreed. “What I know is through Detroit At Work is that we trained 263 percent more people in 2017 and 2018 than in the year prior.”
“And three years ago the average wage was $10.66 an hour and now its $14.39 – which is approaching the Living Wage as demanded by most unions,” she said. “That in no way means our work is done, but we are trending in the right direction.”