Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


What does the Rise and Fall of Detroit tell us?


Geography & Planning Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


One hundred fifty years after Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit, the population of Detroit stood at a mere of 21,000 in 1850. In the following 50 years Detroit grew to a city of 280,000 inhabitants at the 1900 census. In another 50 years Detroit had risen to the 4th largest city in the United Sates, with a population of over 1.8 million in 1950. Sixty years later, however, Detroits population had shrunk to about 710,000, i.e., more than a 60 per cent drop down from its 1950 peak population. Today, per-capita incomes in Detroit are barely half the national average and more than one-third of the citys population lives in poverty. What explains the spectacular rise and fall of Detroit over the past 100 years or so? Using nation- and metro-level data sets, this research explores a range of macro- and micro-level forces that have significantly contributed to the growth and decline of Detroit. In particular, the research looks into how the restructuring of US automobile industry, global competition, the composition and market structure of Detroit metropolitan economy, racial segregation, suburbanization, and public policies have affected the decline of Detroit after 1950. Limitations of the research and future research directions are also discussed.

Conference Name

Annual meeting of the Association of Amerian Geogaphers

Conference Location

Tampa, FL

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