Detroit’s White Flight in Reverse

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Posted in category Detroit

After decades of white flight from the city, including the flight of dead, white bodies from Detroit cemeteries, the flight path has taken a 180-degree turn back to the city.

As Time magazine’s “Detroit Blog” reported back in 2010:

According to new studies, white people are moving back into Detroit proper in increasing numbers for the first time in nearly 60 years.

Yes, the city has become cool again, especially the central downtown area and its adjoining neighborhoods – Midtown, New Center, Woodbridge, Lafayette Park, Corktown, and the Riverfront. The new residents represent a diverse demographic group: professionals, retired empty nesters, hipsters, students, and the creative class. Mostly, they are members of the curious and adventurous middle class.


detroit population

The data above shows that the greater downtown area of Detroit is experiencing a much larger return of white flight than the rest of the city. While 2010 census data shows that 21% of downtown residents were white, only 11% of the residents of the city as a whole were white.

That said, a general uneasiness exists among some of the poorer black residents who are concerned about the new productive class. One black resident is quoted as such:

“Nobody’s saying we don’t want white people in Detroit. Nobody’s saying that. We recognize the economic benefits to that. But in the same token it’s not fair that you can come in on the block and build up and buy this lavish house and mine’s is falling apart and I’m trying to get illegal cable and water. I’m not even going to say cable. I’m going to say basic water and electricity and heat and I’m rigging up stoves and opening up stoves to be hot at night. But you got a loan to pay off your house?”

My observances, as well as that of my friends, would acknowledge that these types of attitudes are in the minority and are not representative of the population as a whole. Still, these small pockets of resistance to change and gentrification are visible and vocal. On the whole, Detroit, and especially the greater downtown area, has become a melting pot of diverse and interesting people who have been willing to invest their time, money, and lives in a city that has been painted as a graveyard by media bobbleheads who have never even set foot here.


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2 Responses to Detroit’s White Flight in Reverse

  1. liberranter says:

    February 24th, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    My observances, as well as that of my friends, would acknowledge that these types of attitudes are in the minority and are not representative of the population as a whole.

    There will, unfortunately, always be a parasitic remnant in every geographic area in which revitalization occurs. One has to simply hope that they are ultimately outnumbered –and displaced– by the emerging productive class.

    The real key to Detroit’s revitalization is going to be in ensuring that the city government continues to remain weak and ineffective. If Detroit’s resurging productive class can make that happen (by “starving the beast,” refusing to participate in local elections, etc.), then maybe, just maybe, Detroit could become a model for other resurgent urban areas throughout the country.

    One can always hope and dream, no?

  2. anon says:

    April 7th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Four questions:

    Do you think the reverse white flight is sustainable?

    Didn’t the whites flee from Detroit due to bad governance combined with rampant race related crime?

    If the crazies are still running the asylum why wouldn’t the policy outcomes still be terrible?

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