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Detroit’s population was 670,031 as of July 2019, according to estimates released by the Census Bureau last Thursday. That’s down 2,946 from 2018, a larger drop than in each of the previous three years. Detroit has continued to shrink for decades — notably losing a quarter of the population between 2000 and 2010, or 238,000 people — though the rate has slowed in the last few years. 

Should we be worried about the most recent drop? Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has repeatedly said that reversing population decline is his number one goal, and what his tenure should be judged on. A growing, or a least stable, population would indicate people have faith in Detroit’s economic opportunities, safety and ability to provide services — and it would fortify the tax base the city needs for its own budget. So yeah, losing a few thousand people a year would matter.

But these latest numbers aren’t exactly set in stone. The accuracy of the estimates is more in question the farther we get from the official Census, last held in 2010. 

“You really do have to take it with a grain of salt,” Kurt Metzger, a demographer, director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit and mayor of Pleasant Ridge, told the Detroit News. “This is a clarion call for the 2020 Census. It’s absolutely critical.”

As Census workers run into pandemic-related hurdles holding up the count, local officials are pushing residents to respond. The Census population numbers are used to divvy up federal funding (according to Duggan, Detroit has lost potentially $300 million over a decade due to undercounting) and affect political representation. As of May 4, Detroit had one of the lowest response rates among large cities at 43%. You can see how your neighborhood compares here.

So if you haven’t yet filled out your census form, now’s the time. You can do it online here, even if you lost the form that was mailed to you. 

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