A Look into Changes in Home Prices in Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan, Between 1991 and 2016

By Martin Lavelle and Dan McMillen

Since the early 1990s, the housing market in Wayne County, Michigan, whose county seat is Detroit, has experienced substantial price swings. Housing market volatility has varied by municipality (and by neighborhood within Detroit). Changes in the Wayne County housing market show us which areas have thrived and which have struggled in the past quarter century or so. In this blog post, we take a look at how home prices across the county have changed between 1991 and 2016, with a focus on changes in the Detroit housing market.

Analysis of maps

We used a nonparametric procedure to estimate hedonic price indexes for each census tract (or neighborhood in Detroit) for five-year intervals throughout the overall sample period between 1991 and 2016.(1) The nonparametric procedure uses the census tract (or Detroit neighborhood) centroids as target points, and then just uses weighted least squares with more weight on sales near the target points.

Before going over each of our five maps individually, we want to highlight a few aspects common to all of them. The numbered and colored axis on the right of each map shows the five-year percentage change in home sale prices. Broadly speaking, red areas indicate relatively hotter housing markets (within Wayne County), while blue areas indicate relatively cooler housing markets. The darker a shade of red an area is, the relatively more positive (or less negative) the change in home sale prices; the darker a shade of blue an area is, the relatively less positive (or more negative) the change in home sale prices.

Each map covers all of Wayne County. Wayne County’s boundaries are the Detroit River to the east; 8 Mile Road to the north; Napier Road and Rawsonville Road to the southwest; and Oakville-Waltz Road, Will Carleton Road, and the Huron River to the south. The Grosse Pointe communities begin in the northeastern corner of Wayne County. In each map, the city of Detroit’s borders appear as thick black lines. Going west from Detroit’s city center, one would encounter Redford Township, Livonia, and Plymouth. Going southwest from Detroit’s city center, one would travel through Dearborn, Metro Airport, Wayne, Belleville, and Canton Township. South of Detroit lie Allen Park, plus the Downriver communities that include Lincoln Park, Trenton, and Woodhaven.

The two smaller areas demarcated with thick black lines within Detroit’s borders are Highland Park and Hamtramck; both cities were outside of Detroit when they were originally founded, and they decided to remain incorporated after Detroit expanded further northward in the first quarter of the twentieth century.(2) The white areas just outside of Southwest Detroit are Ford’s corporate headquarters and its Rouge River plant and associated industrial areas.

Map 1. Home price changes in Wayne County, Michigan, 1991 to 1996
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

In the first half of the 1990s, much of Wayne County saw increases in home sale prices. Notably, there isn’t much variance in home sale price changes in map 1. There were areas both inside and outside Detroit that experienced the greatest relative increases in home sale prices. Within the city, Midtown and northwest Detroit saw the largest positive changes in home sale prices. Outside of Detroit, the exurban areas of Plymouth and Canton Township experienced the greatest positive changes. With the exception of Dearborn, which on the map appears to be poking Detroit’s southwest border, Detroit’s first ring of suburbs experienced increases in home sale prices that were at the lower end of the spectrum of gains.

The results in map 1 are in line with Detroit’s economic narrative at the time. Detroit enjoyed an economic boom in the first half of the 1990s (following the brief national recession of 1990–91). One factor that specifically helped Detroit back then was low oil prices, which boosted sales of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) made by the Detroit Three automakers (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors). Higher profits at the Detroit auto manufacturers had a positive ripple effect on the local and regional economies. Another factor helping the Detroit area was stable public finances. An often overlooked achievement of the 1990s was the fact that Mayor Coleman Young’s administration balanced Detroit’s budget before his tenure ended in the mid-1990s.

Map 2. Home price changes in Wayne County, Michigan, 1996 to 2001
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

During the latter half of the 1990s and the beginning of the twenty-first century, Wayne County continued to see widespread increases in home sale prices, though with slightly greater variance than in first half of the 1990s. Large home sale price increases were found throughout Detroit. During the late ‘90s, government payrolls were expanded, adding to Detroit residents’ disposable incomes. An increase in local government jobs, combined with the surging automotive industry and general economy, led to a sharp decrease in unemployment in Detroit: The city’s unemployment rate averaged 6.6% in 2000, a significant drop from the 1990 average of 15.0%.(3) Meanwhile, Detroit’s first ring of suburbs witnessed a slight pickup in growth in home sale prices. However, Wayne County’s exurban areas saw a modest deceleration in their rate of growth in home sale prices. Overall, the Wayne County housing market was strong throughout the 1990s.

Significant changes were made to how state and local revenues would be collected and used between 1996 and 2001. Dennis Archer replaced Coleman Young as the mayor of Detroit (in 1994) and added to city payrolls, which raised the disposable income of the city at the cost of unbalancing Detroit’s budget. Also, Proposal A, Michigan’s large school-reform bill,(4) flushed Detroit Public Schools with additional cash, adding to the district’s appeal. And state revenue sharing hadn’t been cut yet, giving city government additional resources for services. A lot of economic and fiscal factors worked in Detroit’s favor during the 1990s, most likely making positive impacts on the city’s housing market. However, the next decade would reveal the mistakes of increasing government spending as Detroit’s population (i.e., its tax base) continued to shrink.

Map 3. Home price changes in Wayne County, Michigan, 2001 to 2006
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

Home sale price appreciation endured through 2006 across Wayne County, though with slightly greater variance compared with the appreciation seen in the previous five-year interval. Again, the largest relative gains in home sale prices were in Detroit. Gains in home sale prices flattened in the first ring of suburbs, whereas some exurban areas saw a slight pickup in growth. From looking at map 3, one might conclude that the Detroit and Wayne County economies had stayed the course and built on the 1990s expansion. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. After the turn of the millennium, the subprime housing crisis began. During the early 2000s, Detroit didn’t see the massive boom in homebuilding or the surge in home values seen in places such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tampa, and southern California. That said, Detroit home values remained elevated as a result of the U.S. housing bubble.

After falling to a low of 3.7% in 2000, Michigan’s unemployment rate rose to 7.2% in 2003.(5) The state’s unemployment rate bounced around that rate until it began to rise again with the beginning of the U.S. Great Recession in December 2007. Many analysts have contended Michigan’s economy fell into recession sometime late in 2003, as the boom in SUV sales receded with the rising price of fuel. Then, beginning in 2005, layoffs and voluntary buyouts of long-tenured employees of the Detroit Three automakers began, helping to slow economic activity further. Simultaneously, Detroit’s economic momentum was halted. Detroit residents were already weighed down by high city income tax rates, and revenues from its local casino wagering taxes began to wane. Moreover, the city’s unemployment rate rose quickly after hitting its 2000 low; it reached 14.1% in 2004, and lingered there until late 2007.(6)

Map 4. Home price changes in Wayne County, Michigan, 2006 to 2011
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

After experiencing widespread home sale price increases between 1991 and 2006, home sales price decreases permeated throughout much of Wayne County between 2006 and 2011. Of all the Wayne County municipalities, Detroit suffered the most from the popping of the housing bubble. Even areas of the city that one might assume would be more stable than others (for instance, Midtown Detroit) suffered sizable home sale price decreases. The further out one went from the city, the lesser the decline in home sale prices. However, almost no area was spared. One can almost divide the map into auto-industry-dependent, blue-collar areas and relatively more diversified, white-collar areas (the blue areas were the former, the red areas the latter). Another thing to keep in mind is that outmigration accelerated during this time. Economic misfortunes, early retirements, and the aging of the population persuaded many to leave and seek residence elsewhere.

Map 5. Home price changes in Wayne County, Michigan, 2011 to 2016
Source: Authors’ calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

The year 2011 marked a turning point for Wayne County’s economy. In that year, Dan Gilbert moved the headquarters of Quicken Loans downtown and started incentivizing his employees to live there as well. Also in 2011, Gilbert began buying downtown real estate. Now, Gilbert owns over 90 buildings downtown. The year 2011 was also when Mayor Dave Bing announced his intention to supply additional funding to certain stable neighborhoods of Detroit that were deemed “demonstration areas.”(7) The Detroit neighborhood of Boston–Edison (one of the demonstration areas) shows up in map 5 as a lighter red area (indicating it had modest home price increases). Bagley (another demonstration area) is one of the lighter blue Detroit neighborhoods (indicating a slight rebound in home values there).

In map 5, Detroit’s Downtown, Midtown, and Corktown, plus their surrounding areas, show signs of life. As we mentioned, Dan Gilbert was the catalyst for downtown investment. And it turns out that Midtown Detroit, Inc., was the catalyst for Midtown investment. In 2011, Midtown Detroit, Inc., Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State, and Henry Ford Health Systems announced the start of the Live Midtown program, which provided monetary incentives for people to move to Midtown.(8) This program helped increase the rental occupancy rate in Midtown Detroit to nearly 100% in 2014.(9) And high occupancy rates have endured in Midtown even with the additional living capacity built over the past few years.(10) In Corktown, the owners of Slows BBQ helped draw new investment to other vacant Michigan Avenue storefronts, improving the neighborhood’s attractiveness.


During the late 1990s and early 2000s, home sale prices rose much more rapidly in (already relatively low-priced) Detroit neighborhoods than in many other parts of Wayne County (see map 2). However, these same Detroit neighborhoods were the areas where home prices fell more significantly as Michigan endured its one-state recession from around 2003 through 2009 and as the U.S. housing bubble burst in 2006 (see map 4).

Map 5 (which describes the five-year home price changes between 2011 and 2016) almost perfectly demonstrates the argument that there are now “two Detroits,” as public and private investments to date have helped only some parts of Detroit to revitalize and raise their home values. The areas in red are where the bulk of Detroit’s revitalization is taking place, while the areas in blue are the neighborhoods still waiting to participate in the city’s rebound. At this point, the blue areas in Detroit are vastly outnumbered by the red ones. But many public sector and private sector efforts are under way to improve the city’s living conditions, which may lead to higher home prices (and, in turn, higher tax receipts and perhaps expansions of city services to draw more people). So, in the coming years, Detroit may start to see its red neighborhoods outnumbering its blue ones.

(1) Nonparametric regressions are used when the relationship between the independent and dependent variables aren’t already known. The regression analysis from the data provided determines the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. A hedonic price index identifies price factors (the characteristics of the good itself and the external factors affecting its sale). (For more on census tracts, see https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/webatlas/tracts.html.) Details on our procedure are available upon request.
(2) For details, see https://wdet.org/posts/2014/09/19/80119-why-do-hamtramck-and-highland-park-exist-inside-the-city-of-detroit/.
(3) Author’s calculations based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(4) See http://www.mlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/04/a_brief_history_of_proposal_a.html.
(5) Author’s calculations using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
(6) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
(7) See http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110727/FREE/110729908/detroit-works-project-to-be-measured-in-three-demonstration-areas.
(8) See https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/11/01/midtown-incentives-boost-diversity/74014992/.
(9) See http://www.mlive.com/business/detroit/index.ssf/2014/04/with_shortage_of_housing_optio.html.
(10) See https://detroit.curbed.com/2018/2/20/17031664/report-apartments-downtown-highest-average-rent-detroit and https://www.freep.com/story/money/business/2017/02/18/detroit-apartments-real-estate/97640058/.

Potential Seventh District Contenders for Amazon’s HQ2

By Martin Lavelle

In September 2017, Amazon announced its search for a second North American headquarters location. Ultimately, 238 North American metropolitan areas submitted bids within the six-week allotted period, including several in the Seventh District (1). In this blog, I examine the potential Seventh District contenders based on some important criteria relating to logistics, business environment, and labor force.

Amazon’s request for proposals laid out its location preferences:
• Metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people
• A stable and business-friendly environment
• Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent
• Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options

In the Seventh District, the metropolitan areas with a population of greater than 1 million are Chicago, Detroit (2), Grand Rapids, MI, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.


The table below shows that each of the Seventh District’s metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents fulfills most or all of Amazon’s other logistical preferences, though to varying extents.

Table 1: Seventh District MSAs and Amazon’s Logistical Requirements (3).

Chicago possesses the flexibility for Amazon to locate anywhere in its metro area because of the various modes of mass transit available to Chicagoland commuters. Milwaukee’s bus rapid transit lines offer some flexibility as well as to potential HQ2 locations. Chicago and Detroit provide an adequate number of air connections to Amazon’s most important North American metropolitan areas. In addition, O’Hare and Detroit Metro Airports are large enough to potentially adjust operations and increase connections.
Logistics also include freeway networks and the ability of employees to navigate freeways. The work/life balance is disrupted the longer one spends stuck in traffic. The table below shows how the Seventh District metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people rank relative to other major North American metropolitan areas with regard to how many hours one
spends in congested traffic annually.

Table 2: Select North American Metro Areas by Traffic Congestion (4)

While it may not seem like it, especially during road construction season, Seventh District metropolitan areas rank favorably on congestion, relative to population size. What Detroit and Indianapolis lack in mass transit, they compensate for with the number of freeway connections. However, according to the 2015 American Community Survey (ACS), Chicago and Detroit have higher drive and total commute times than the national average in each category. Per the ACS, the percentage of Chicago commuters that utilize some mode of mass transit is slightly above 10%, similar to that of Seattle.

Business Environment

Amazon’s second location requirements include a stable and business-friendly environment. States with more business-friendly tax climates tend to use their corporate tax structure as an incentive to attract new business. The table below shows how Seventh District states rank in the 2017 Overall and Corporate Business Tax Climate Index.

Table 3: Ranking of Select U.S. States in the 2018 Overall and Corporate Business Tax Climate Index (5)

Source: https://statetaxindex.org.

The overall rankings of the Seventh District states compare favorably relative to some states with sites that are considered top contenders for Amazon HQ2 such as Minneapolis, MN and Washington D.C., which are included in the above and remaining tables. Indiana and Michigan rate in the top half, helped by the fact they have the lowest flat individual income and corporate income tax rates among the Seventh District states (6). Illinois fell out of the top half in the most recent annual update to the rankings. Meanwhile, Michigan has moved into the top 10 overall.

Theoretically, business activity levels should increase if the state is relatively friendlier to business. One could surmise that a greater number of businesses would place their corporate headquarters in a state that ranks as more accommodating to business. The chart below plots a state’s corporate tax climate ranking versus the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in that particular state.

Chart 1: Corporate Business Tax Climate Index Ranking vs. Actual and Predicted Fortune 500 Headquarters

Sources: https://www.ceo.com/entrepreneurial_ceo/two-charts-showing-states-with-the-most-fortune-500-companies and https://statetaxindex.org.

As shown by the green trend line on the chart, there’s actually a slight positive relationship between a state’s corporate tax climate index ranking and the number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered there. The lower the state is ranked, the greater the number of corporate headquarters located in that particular state. That’s the opposite of what one would expect, which is the red dotted line on the chart above.

So if a state’s overall business tax climate doesn’t impact where a corporation will locate its head offices, what variable does influence those decisions? Another example of a state with a business-friendly environment is one that offers incentives to help influence companies’ location decisions. The table below displays how the Seventh District states with eligible metropolitan areas compare with others in that dimension.

Table 4: Annual Business Incentives Per Employee

Source: Moody’s Analytics

By this measure, Michigan ranks highly relative to sites in states that many analysts think have major contenders to land Amazon’s HQ2 such as Austin, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA; Portland, OR; Denver, CO; Atlanta, GA, San Francisco, CA; Raleigh, NC; and Salt Lake City, UT. Michigan is noticeably more generous with incentives than other Seventh District states. A major reason companies seek incentives is to offset tax liabilities. The Upjohn Institute created a database with national tax and incentive data, as well as state tax and incentive data for 33 states across 45 industries over the past 26 years. From the database, one can determine the magnitude of a state’s tax liability and incentive for a given industry as a percentage of that industry’s economic value-added. Then, by taking the incentive percentage (of its value-added) for a given state and dividing that by its tax percentage (of its value-added), one can determine to what extent a state’s incentives offset an industry’s tax liabilities in that specific state. The table below compares state tax liabilities and incentive offerings as a percentage of their respective value-added, along with the percentage of state tax liabilities covered by incentive offerings for some of the Amazon HQ2 contenders and the U.S. overall.

Table 5: Incentives and Taxes by U.S. and Select State, 2015 (7).

Source: Tables 10, 13, and 15 of http://research.upjohn.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1228&context=reports.

Except for Illinois, the Seventh District states rank favorably relative to other states when looking at incentives as a percentage of state’s value-added and as a percentage of a state’s gross taxes. Having a greater percentage of its gross tax liabilities offset by incentive offerings would likely make a state more attractive to a business. Another takeaway from the table is that it doesn’t follow the previous table that showed incentives per job. Texas may have the highest incentive per job, but its incentive offerings constitute a relatively low percentage of its value-added. Conversely, Indiana possesses a relatively low incentive amount per job, but incentives offset almost 60% of its gross taxes. Lastly, Washington stands out for being a relatively high tax, low incentive state that lags significantly behind the other contending states.


Amazon has stated that it “will hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees with an average annual total compensation exceeding $100,000 over the next 10-15 years, following the commencement of operations.” (8) In order to fill that many positions, Amazon will need to attract and retain highly skilled workers. That requires access to a college-educated population, including a substantial number with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields. The table below compares the Seventh District candidate metropolitan areas with other contenders on the relative education level of the adult population, as well as the percentage with a science or engineering background.

Table 6: College-educated Population in Select U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Source: 2016 American Community Survey, Seventh District locations are highlighted.

Among the group above, the Seventh District metropolitan areas don’t match up well. The Michigan metros don’t rank well when looking at the percentage of the population that possesses a bachelor’s degree. Grand Rapids ranks last when looking at the percentage of population with an advanced degree. Some of the areas known for their ability to retain and attract talent stand out in the table above. Washington D.C., San Francisco-Oakland, Raleigh, and Boston have world-class universities and globally renowned employers that require and need the best and the brightest.

Of course, not all STEM fields require a bachelor’s degree. Certain occupations in manufacturing and information technology only require a two-year degrees or specific certification. The table below shows the Seventh District candidate cities’ STEM employment relative the same group of U.S. cities listed in the previous table.

Table 7: Percentage of Employees in STEM (9) Occupations; Seventh District and Select U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Source: Author’s calculations based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics database, available at www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm. Seventh District locations are highlighted.

By this broader measure, the Seventh District metropolitan areas compare more favorably with their peers. Detroit, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee have higher percentages of employees in STEM occupations than the U.S. average. Of the group of metro areas listed above, Detroit ranks behind just five of them.

An important factor in attracting talent is a relatively low cost of living. The next table examines the gross median rent in the Seventh District metro areas and select U.S. metros. Also, the table lists the gross median rent as a percentage of median household income in each metro area.

Table 10: Median Rent and its Percentage of Median Household Income

Source: Author’s Calculations Using Data from the 2016 American Community Survey. Seventh District locations are highlighted.

While there’s a noticeable disparity in the monthly rents among the metro areas, the range considerably tightens when looking at the percentage of household income that is devoted to rent. Detroit has one of the lowest monthly rents, but it comprises a relatively high percentage of household income because of Detroit’s relatively low median household income. Meanwhile, the Washington D.C. metro area, known for its relatively high housing costs, has a median rent almost twice that of Detroit, but it comprises a lower percentage of the metro’s median household income because the metro area has a higher median household income. Among the Seventh District metro areas, rents in Grand Rapids make up the lowest percentage of household income.

Potential Amazon Sites in the Seventh District Cities

Do you have an eight million square foot piece of land to spare in your metro area? That’s what Amazon is asking for their HQ2 site. Amazon requires an initial space of 500,000 square feet that can expand to as large as eight million square feet in order to accommodate the number of employees they plan to have working at their HQ2. Where would Amazon place their HQ2 in each of the Seventh District’s large metro areas? Potential Seventh District contenders have suggested particular sites that could accommodate Amazon’s HQ2.


Chicago proposed ten sites that could accommodate Amazon’s new headquarters. They were revealed to the public and can be viewed here. A couple of the sites stand out for different reasons. The Downtown Gateway District site, which includes the old Post Office building, contains move-in-ready buildings, but would also allow Amazon to design its own headquarters. Outside of Downtown, the River District site would also give Amazon some autonomy in designing its headquarters without having to undertake the kind of massive redevelopment effort that some of the other proposed sites would require.


The executive summary of Detroit’s Amazon proposal offers few surprises. Dan Gilbert, Chairman and Founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, was appointed to lead Detroit’s bid for Amazon, which includes Windsor, Ontario, Canada, just across the Detroit River. Gilbert owns 95 Downtown Detroit buildings, giving Downtown Detroit flexibility to move things around if it were to be chosen by Amazon. One potential complex is the now open space that was supposed to have Wayne County’s new jail, and then was bought by Gilbert with much talk surrounding a soccer stadium. With the old jail site on one end and Gilbert’s proposed skyscraper on the old Hudson’s department store site on the other, this location could be attractive. Of course, Detroit doesn’t have a shortage of vacant space that Amazon could build to use. However, Detroit doesn’t have the extensive mass transit system that would allow relatively easy access to some of the larger vacant sites.

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids hasn’t given any clues publicly as to where it has proposed Amazon would locate within the area. However, the relatively small size of the metro area means it only takes 15-20 minutes to drive from any corner of Greater Grand Rapids into downtown. The metro area includes plenty of space around Holland, only a 35 minute drive from Downtown Grand Rapids, and Grand Valley State University in between.


Indianapolis didn’t make their Amazon bid public either. Indianapolis may arguably have the most shovel-ready location that would not just fulfill Amazon’s initial 500,000 square foot requirement, but go a long way toward hitting the eight million square foot target. The site used to have a General Motors stamping plant, which it was demolished in 2013. It is located in Downtown Indianapolis on the White River, just across from the central business district and IUPUI, and has relatively easy access to the city’s freeway system. The old GM site has been talked about publicly by city stakeholders. (10) As with Detroit, in Indianapolis, a less extensive mass transit system limits where Amazon could go.


Milwaukee’s bidding group didn’t reveal its Amazon bid publicly. However, according to the local press, two sites in Walkers Point were included.(11) Walkers Point lies immediately south of Milwaukee’s central business district, contains old industrial sites, and provides access to freeways and Milwaukee’s bus rapid transit system. In addition, one would expect potential locations to be identified in the vicinity of Milwaukee’s airport, which is south of the central business district.


If Amazon were to choose a Seventh District location for HQ2, where would it be? Looking at all of the variables, the most likely Seventh District metro area to attract Amazon would seem to be Chicago. However, if Amazon wanted to transform a community, then Detroit or Milwaukee might be more appealing. If Amazon preferred the most shovel-ready site, then Indianapolis could merit greater consideration. Grand Rapids could emerge as a candidate if Amazon were to place greater weight on its ability to work with local stakeholders, as well as having their employees enjoy a relatively low cost of living. Amazon plans to make an announcement sometime in 2018. (12)

Foot Notes

1 – The Seventh Federal Reserve District serves a five-state region, comprising all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
2 – Although Detroit submitted a joint regional bid with Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the statistics I cite here are for the Detroit MSA.
3 – See Information on Airport Hub Size Type from the FAA, number of Direct Flights from October 24, 2017 using the By Route tab at http://www.panynj.gov/airports/flight-status.html?view=DEPARTURE&apt=EWR. Airport data includes all commercial metropolitan airports, i.e., New York consists of Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark airports. Seventh District locations are highlighted.
4 – Population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Traffic data from inrix.com/scorecard. Seventh District locations are highlighted.
5 – The overall ranking of the State Business Tax Climate Index is derived from five components: state income tax, sales tax, corporate tax, property tax, and unemployment insurance tax. The corporate tax has the third heaviest weight of the five components at 19%. The corporate tax subindex is divided into three of its own subindexes. The first subindex revolves around the structure of a state’s corporate tax rate, its level, and how many brackets and how quickly does a corporation’s tax liability reach the highest bracket. The second subindex examines variables related to the corporate tax base, such as the caps and number of years allowed for carryback and carryforward, gross receipts tax deductions, and whether or not the state has an alternative minimum tax. The final subindex studies the size and effectiveness of tax credits. Seventh District locations are highlighted.
6 – See p. 59 and p. 64 of https://files.taxfoundation.org/20171016171625/SBTCI_2018.pdf.
7 – Table reports present value of incentives, gross state and local business taxes, and net business taxes after incentives, all calculated as percent of present value of value-added. All incentive and taxes are weighted average, using value-added weights, across all 31 export-base industries, for a new facility starting up in 2015. Table also reports the state’s share of private value-added, which is used to create national averages across these states. Incentives as a percent of gross taxes are simply ratio of the two other columns. All present value calculations use 12 percent real discount rate, and consider facility with life of 20 years. The U.S. incentive percentage is weighted by a state’s gross state product. Seventh District locations are highlighted.
8 – See p. 2 of https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/Anything/test/images/usa/RFP_3._V516043504_.pdf.
9 – The criteria to define STEM- and non-STEM-related occupations were taken from the U.S. Census Bureau. See www.census.gov/people/io/files/STEM-Census-2010-occ-code-list.xls.
10 – See https://www.indystar.com/story/money/2017/09/28/if-amazon-chooses-indianapolis-heres-where-h-2-q-should-go/685599001/.
11 – See http://www.tmj4.com/news/local-news/making-a-pitch-possible-locations-for-amazons-hq2-site.
12 – See p.1 of https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/Anything/test/images/usa/RFP_3._V516043504_.pdf.

Is Michigan’s Low Unemployment Rate Misleading?

By Martin Lavelle

In a blog entry last year, I investigated the tightness of Michigan’s labor market after the state’s unemployment rate had reached its lowest point since 2001. More recently, in June 2017, Michigan’s unemployment rate achieved yet a new low during the current expansionary cycle, falling to 3.8%. The summer of 2000 is the last time Michigan’s unemployment rate fell below 4%. How does Michigan’s current labor market compare with that of 2000?

Analysis of Michigan Household Survey Data

Among popular labor market indicators, the unemployment rate is far and away the most recognized.(1) The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of working age unemployed persons by the total labor force (i.e., unemployed plus employed). These readings of the total labor force are determined from the “household survey” (more details here). For one to be included in the labor force, one has to be 16 years or older and either employed or actively seeking employment.

So this excludes working age adults who are neither employed nor unemployed. This is why when we assess labor market conditions; we often look at the labor force participation rate. The labor force participation rate (LFPR) is measured by dividing the total labor force (employed plus unemployed) by the working-age population. Generally, a high or rising LFPR indicates a more robust labor market. At first blush, one might expect that an improving labor market would raise employment, lower unemployment, and grow the labor force, thereby decreasing the unemployment rate and increasing the labor force participation rate. But it is also possible for these two prominent indicators to move in opposite directions. As one example, if employment remained constant or slightly decreased, but unemployment fell at a slightly faster pace (so that the labor force contracted), the unemployment rate would decrease, a positive indicator, while the labor force participation rate would also decrease, a negative indicator.

As it turns out, these conditions have prevailed in Michigan. The chart below compares household employment and labor force levels going back to 2000.

Chart 1: Michigan Household Employment & Total Labor Force, Index: Aug. 2000=100: 2000-present

Source: Author’s calculations using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As we can see, both Michigan household employment and the state’s labor force are roughly 6% below summer 2000 levels. Except for a brief period in early 2001, Michigan’s labor force levels haven’t exceeded summer 2000 levels. In addition, while household employment is well above the lows hit during the Great Recession, only recently has the level of Michigan’s labor force recovered to recessionary lows, which occurred in September 2008.

Further, the next chart examines the level of unemployment and the labor force in Michigan back to 2000.

Chart 2: Michigan Household Unemployment & Total Labor Force, Index: Aug. 2000=100: 2000-present

Source: Author’s calculations using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment peaked in Michigan at the trough of the Great Recession in June 2009.(2) At that time, Michigan’s unemployment levels had almost quadrupled since August, 2000. Only by June 2017 did total unemployment in Michigan fall below its August 2000 level.

Since June 2009, while household employment increased almost 10%, unemployment dropped 75%. With the labor force staying relatively flat, Michigan’s labor force participation rate has fallen since the end of the Great Recession, from 63.8% to 61.4% presently, as shown in the next chart.

Chart 3: Michigan and U.S. Labor Force Participation Rates: 2000-present

Source: Haver Analytics.


Whereas Michigan’s unemployment rate is now recorded at its lowest since the summer of 2000, other labor market measures compiled through the household survey indicate Michigan’s labor market has not recovered to its 2000 condition. In August 2000, when Michigan’s unemployment rate last reached 3.8%, the state’s labor force participation rate reached 68.5% compared with 61.4% today. Why has the state’s labor force participation rate fallen so far? Some of it is demographics—an aging population. The national LFPR has also fallen for this reason, from 67.3% in January 2000 to 62.9% today.(3) However, Michigan’s falling LFPR also reflects more troubling developments, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and the movement of working age population to other states. Michigan has 286,300 fewer manufacturing jobs now versus July 2000, helping to prompt the migration of almost 800,000 Michigan residents to other states since 2000. Accordingly, despite its low unemployment rate, it will most likely be some time before Michigan’s labor market will reclaim the level of health it recorded during the summer of 2000.

1-The unemployment rate that is referred to throughout the blog is the U-3 unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on other unemployment rates. See https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/archive/the-unemployment-rate-and-beyond-alternative-measures-of-labor-underutilization.pdf for alternative measures of the unemployment rate.
2-See http://www.nber.org/cycles.html.
3- See https://www.chicagofed.org/~/media/publications/economic-perspectives/2014/4q2014-part1-aaronson-etal-pdf.pdf.

Autonomous and electric vehicles: Two potentially disruptive forces in the transportation sector

By Thomas Klier and Martin Lavelle

On June 1–2, 2017, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago held its 24th annual Automotive Outlook Symposium (AOS) at its Detroit Branch.1 In this blog entry, we cover the first day’s panel, which was on autonomous vehicles and battery electric vehicles (BEVs).2 The panel’s three experts focused on how these types of vehicles might affect personal mobility and the organization of our society; automotive manufacturers’ product planning; and energy usage. All of the speakers agreed that these innovations have the potential to play significant and disruptive roles in the automotive industry’s future. Yet, they all conceded that the speed at which these new technologies will be rolled out is still uncertain.

Autonomous vehicles and their potential impact on society

James Sayer, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), discussed how the wide use of autonomous vehicles could affect society as a whole. To begin, Sayer said vehicles can be divided into “levels” based on the degree of autonomy they possess. A table describing the different levels of vehicle autonomy is shown below.3

Sayer said he sees great potential benefits from the wide adoption of autonomous vehicles (i.e., those in levels 3–5). For example, autonomous vehicles could be used to transport lower-skilled workers to more workplaces than they can presently access, increasing their employment opportunities. That said, autonomous vehicles could displace millions of workers who now earn livings as taxi drivers, chauffeurs, bus drivers, and delivery drivers. So, there may also be significant societal costs that cancel out some of the benefits we get from autonomous vehicles being integrated into everyday life.

In addition, Sayer wondered aloud how our time spent in vehicles—particularly during our commutes—might change once consumers have access to autonomous vehicles. Because they won’t have to drive their cars, vehicle users could use their commuting periods to increase their labor productivity as well as decrease stress. Among other things, that would allow for longer commuting distances for more workers, which would increase energy usage. In addition, empty vehicles would likely drive to a parking lot after having dropped off their passengers and drive back to the workplace to pick them up for the return trip. On net, that would likely increase congestion and total miles travelled, Sayer contended. If autonomous transportation became more widely used, it seems that people might, on balance, spend more time in vehicles, said Sayer. That could translate into less time spent exercising or engaging in other activities that address a person’s well-being. After discussing these possible changes in societal patterns, Sayer raised the related question of vehicle ownership. The traditional model of owning vehicles outright might well change to one where some (possibly many) people forgo individual ownership and participate in ride-sharing and vehicle-sharing programs.

The technical challenges for autonomous vehicles remain substantial, Sayer observed. For instance, developing better sensors and algorithms to improve autonomous transportation is very important. However, he argued that the greatest challenges for the wide adoption of this technology are social, behavioral, and legal in nature. These types of challenges related to autonomous cars are not getting enough attention, at least compared with the technical ones, Sayer argued. When thinking about how to integrate autonomous vehicles into our societies, driver accountability should be near the top of the list. Who’s responsible in an accident involving an autonomous vehicle, especially when it’s not operated by a human at the time of the accident? Does the responsibility fall on the owner of the vehicle, the manufacturer, or the developer of the software system used in the vehicle? Because there’s still so much learn about how autonomous vehicles operate in the real world, Sayer said a good implementation plan would be to deploy them in small numbers at first. This way they will be refined before they’re more widely deployed. The very ways in which societies and their economies are organized will be transformed if autonomous vehicles become ubiquitous, but we still have much to learn about how best to integrate this innovation into our daily lives.

Autonomous and electric vehicles from a manufacturer’s perspective

Jeff Mazoway, Hyundai/Kia, presented the challenges automotive manufacturers will have to overcome in order to successfully bring substantial amounts of autonomous and electric-powered vehicles to the market. At the outset, he said that vehicle autonomy and electrification will likely be introduced in conjunction with each other. To address the question of consumer acceptance of a technology as disruptive as autonomous vehicles, Hyundai and others have been conducting much research. Mazoway discussed survey results showing that currently just over half of consumers wouldn’t buy an autonomous vehicle because of concerns about the safety of the new technology. More worrisome to automotive manufacturers is that at present, Generation Z consumers4 are more concerned about autonomous vehicle safety than the average consumer. This is troubling because Generation Z is considered the intended audience for this technology given the time it will take to implement fully autonomous driving (level 5 in table 1). In addition, Mazoway said that these safety concerns have opened the door to tech companies, such as Apple and Google, to compete with traditional automotive manufacturers for the autonomous vehicle market; many consumers simply do not trust the traditional carmakers to come up with safe and reliable autonomous vehicles. Engineering trust among consumers and automobile manufacturers (whether they’re from Detroit or Silicon Valley or elsewhere) will be vital to complete the transition to fully autonomous vehicles.

According to Mazoway, fully autonomous vehicles with a human still needed to drive under certain circumstances or conditions (level 4 in table 1) are projected to be introduced to the market by 2025. Today, vehicles capable of performing at least a couple of automated functions, such as cruise control and lane centering (level 2), are widely available. In other words, the vast majority of vehicles are one level away from partial autonomy (level 3) and two levels away from full autonomy, though still with a steering wheel for a human to be able to take control (level 4). To get us to wide use of vehicles with level 4 autonomy by 2025, Mazoway said technologies to facilitate vehicle-to-vehicle communication need further improvements (specifically, further advances in artificial intelligence capabilities and information technology).

Meanwhile, Mazoway said he projects that BEVs will increase their market share of all new vehicle sales from 3% in 2022 to 27% by 2040, as seen in the chart below.

Chart 1. U.S. electric vehicle sales forecast, 2015–40

Note: ICE means internal combustion engine; HEV, hybrid electric vehicle; EV, electric vehicle; and PHEV, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.
Sources: IHS Markit and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Presently, the majority of consumers don’t view electric vehicles as a compelling option, specifically because gasoline prices remain quite low. However, Mazoway said consumers’ concerns for the environment and the fuel cost savings from owning and operating an electric vehicle do give him reasons to be optimistic about electric vehicles gaining market share in the future. One additional contributing factor to this optimism is the expectation that battery costs will drop by two-thirds before 2030. Also, as battery electric vehicles increase how far they can go on a single charge, more consumers will show interest in that technology, Mazoway contended. Mazoway indicated that a 300-mile driving range for a BEV as the tipping point for buyer interest. To help make battery electric vehicles more financially appealing, automotive manufacturers are engaging in creative selling practices, which include leasing, reimbursing down payments by covering them with the California clean vehicle rebate, and other innovative marketing techniques. According to Mazoway, the average price for battery electric vehicles is projected to be on par with that for gasoline-powered vehicles by 2025. It will be a significant moment for auto manufacturers and consumers whenever those two prices actually do match.

BEVs and long-range energy forecasts

John Staub, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), said he doesn’t see battery electric vehicles gaining as much market share as Mazoway does by 2040. His forecast is for BEVs to reach one-sixth of all new vehicle sales by that year. Displayed in the chart below are Staub’s forecasts for battery costs. According to his projections, there will be a sizable drops in battery costs that will lead to more battery electric vehicle sales. In addition, state-level programs such as California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program are expected to incentivize additional BEV sales.5

Chart 2. Projected lithium-ion battery costs, 2010–40

Note: PHEV10 means plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a range of 10 miles on electricity alone; PHEV40, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a range of 40 miles on electricity alone; EV100, electric vehicle with a range of 90 miles; EV200, electric vehicle with a range of 200 miles; and AEO2016 EV100, the EIA’s 2016 Annual Energy Outlook for electric vehicles with a range of 90 miles.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Staub said the EIA expects battery electric vehicle sales to jump from 100,000 units presently to around 900,000 units by 2025. Thereafter, the pace of increase in battery electric vehicle sales is expected to slow, with sales anticipated to reach only about 1.1 million units by 2040.6

While BEV sales are projected to grow over the forecast horizon, gasoline-powered vehicles are still expected to dominate the new vehicle market for quite some time, Staub commented. Additionally, light truck sales are projected to continue to make up over 55% of new vehicle sales until at least 2040. Even so, fuel economy for all vehicles is still expected to improve because micro hybrid7 systems will be incorporated into a larger number of vehicles from 2020 onward.

Staub said the EIA projects oil prices to jump to $75 per barrel by 2020,8 but slow their pace of increase thereafter. According to the EIA, gasoline prices are expected to increase at a slow and steady rate, not rising above $3 per gallon until 2030, Staub reported.9 Notably, the EIA’s projections for battery electric vehicle sales (mentioned earlier) generally follow its projections for energy prices.


There are many open questions regarding the future of autonomous vehicles and battery electric vehicles. Some of these were raised at the AOS: What societal issues are autonomous vehicles capable of addressing? When will autonomous vehicles be feasible for wide public use? How much market share can autonomous vehicles and battery electric vehicles take? These questions are beginning to receive more media attention. For instance, one recent Detroit Free Press article explored how Downtown Detroit parking might change with, among other things, the introduction of autonomous vehicles. And another story, from the Associated Press, reported that UK automotive parts maker Delphi and French transportation company Transdev would be deploying autonomous taxis without backup drivers as early as next year in order to conduct road testing. Over the coming years, auto producers and policymakers will have to carefully consider how autonomous vehicles and battery electric vehicles will become integrated into people’s daily lives.

1. The agenda and some materials presented at the event are available at https://www.chicagofed.org/events/2017/automotive-outlook-symposium.
2. The rest of the most recent AOS will be summarized in an upcoming Chicago Fed Letter article by William Strauss and Thomas Haasl.
3. This table was compiled by the blog entry authors (not any of the panelists). It was a common point of reference for the panel. The two charts in this blog entry are from panelists’ presentations.
4. Generation Z is the generation after the millennials (or Generation Y). While there is no true consensus yet, Generation Z is typically thought to begin with those born in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.
5. See p. 98 of https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf. Also, for more details on California’s ZEV program—which has been adopted by nine additional states—see https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/zevprog.htm.
6. See p. 97 of https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf.
7. Micro hybrid systems are automated engine start–stop systems, which reduce engine idling time.
8. Brent Crude oil price in 2016 dollars. See p. 27 of https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf.
9. See p. 49 of https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf.

The Detroit Association of Business Economists Talks Wine

By Paul Traub

At the final event of its 2016–17 events calendar, the Detroit Association of Business Economists (D.A.B.E.) hosted three presentations on what it takes to own and operate a vineyard (where grapes are grown) or winery (where grapes are processed into wine) in Michigan. The event took place on May 11, 2017, at the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. While it may sound romantic to live on a vineyard, the attendees of this event learned that growing grapes and operating a winery is a tremendous amount of work. Thomas Smith, associate director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology, moderated a panel of three speakers—Karel Bush, executive director, Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, Dave Youngblood, owner and operator of Youngblood Vineyards, and Cristin Hosmer, VESTA and the Michigan Wine Collaborative.

Vineyards and wineries represent a growing part of Michigan’s economy. Michigan’s terroir or natural environment for producing wine features favorable factors such as good soil and topography together with a growing climate that gives its wine a unique taste. There are three main types of grapes grown in Michigan—classic European varieties called vinifera, native varieties including Concord and Niagara, and hybrids, which are a botanical cross between vinifera and native varieties. Because of Michigan’s harsh winters, most of its grapes grow within 25 miles of Lake Michigan, where the moderating “lake effect” protects the vines. The lake effect produces snow in the winter, protecting vines from early spring frosts that can damage the grape buds and lower production. In addition, the warmer air off the lakes in the early fall helps protect against freezing, thereby extending the growing season by up to four weeks. According to the Michigan Grape and Wine Council, Michigan has 13,700 acres of vineyards, making it the fourth largest grape-growing state in the country. While most of Michigan’s vineyard acreage grows juice grapes, about 2,850 acres are devoted to wine grapes, making Michigan the fifth largest wine-grape producer in the nation. Michigan grows about 20 types of wine grapes, but the top five account for almost 65% of total production by acreage. They are: riesling (27.9%), pinot noir (10.2%), chardonnay (9.6%), pinot gris (9.6%), and cabernet franc (7.1%).

Michigan’s vineyard area has more than doubled over the past ten years and the state now has 131 commercial wineries bottling more than 2.4 million gallons of wine annually. In fact, Michigan’s wine production has increased by 34% over the past five years, making it tenth state in the nation in wine production. Growth in wine production is expected to continue, with new hybrids allowing for production in areas of the state that were not previously hospitable to wine grapes. An added bonus for Michigan’s economy is that wineries are popular tourist destinations, attracting more than two million visitors annually. The wine industry directly contributes $300 million annually to Michigan’s economy, and the combined wine, grape, and juice products and related industries add nearly $790 million in total economic value to the State of Michigan. To learn more and to review the complete presentations, click on the links below.

The History and Economics of Michigan’s Wine Industry, Karel Bush, Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council

Economics of a Vineyard, Dave Youngblood, Youngblood Vineyards

The Economics of a Winery, Cristin Hosmer, VESTA and the Michigan Wine Collaborative

The Detroit Economic Activity Index is released by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

by Paul Traub

People often ask me, “How is Detroit doing since its exit from bankruptcy?” I usually go into a long explanation of how there have been several signs of improving economic conditions since late 2014, when Detroit emerged from bankruptcy. However, some people would prefer a brief, yet economically meaningful, answer to their question. This has led me to believe that having all of these signs combined into a single easy-to-grasp index of Detroit’s economy would be beneficial.

In collaboration with my Chicago Fed colleague Scott Brave, I came up with a new measure of Detroit-specific economic conditions dubbed the Detroit Economic Activity Index (DEAI). The DEAI is constructed using a mixed-frequency dynamic factor model, but includes 23 Detroit-specific data series capturing income, employment, residential and commercial real estate activity, electric customer counts, tax revenues, and port activity. For a more thorough explanation of the construction of the DEAI, see our Chicago Fed Letter article titled “Tracking Detroit’s economic recovery after bankruptcy with a new index.” In our new research, by using this index (and other measures), Scott and I do an analysis of the city’s economic performance from 1998 through the present day. Eventually, we expect to make the DEAI’s results publicly available on a regular basis, but for now, we will continue developing the index. If interested, we’ll announce the availability of the DEAI on the Chicago Fed website and here in this blog.

U.S and Michigan Economy Webinar

By: Paul Traub

On Tuesday, February 28, I hosted a 30-minute webcast on the current state of the U.S. and Michigan economies. This blog provides a summary of the webcast.

A year-over-year comparison of some main economic indicators for the U.S. economy (table 1) shows that the U.S. economy continued to expand in 2016 at a moderate pace and labor markets continued to improve, but inflation remained below the Federal Open Market Committee’s 2% longer-run objective.

Table 1: U.S. Main Economic Indictors

Indicator    2014    2015    2016
Gross Domestic Product 1 2.4% 2.6% 1.6%
Unemployment Rate 2 6.2% 5.3% 4.9%
Participation Rate 2 62.9% 62.7% 62.8%
Nonfarm Job Growth 3 2,558 2,876 2,493
PCE Core Inflation 4 1.6% 1.4% 1.7%
  1. Year-over-year
  2. Annual Average
  3. Annual Average Employment – Y/Y Change in thousands
  4. Annual Average PCE Core Inflation – Percent Change Y/Y

 Consumer spending (personal consumption growth in chart 1) made the largest contribution to U.S. economic growth in 2016. Improved labor conditions and growing personal income facilitated U.S. consumers’ ability to purchase U.S. goods and services. Consumers contributed 1.8% to total GDP growth of 1.6% for the year. Total GDP growth ended up lower because of negative contributions from gross private domestic investment and net exports. While domestic residential investment added 0.2%, offsets from nonresidential (-0.1%) and inventory investment (-0.4%) pushed the total sector’s contribution into negative territory (-0.3%). In addition, a stronger trade-weighted U.S. dollar made U.S. goods and service more expensive overseas, helping to increase the trade deficit by $21.7 billion in 2016 on a year-over-year basis, its highest annual level since 2008. Government investment and consumption added just 0.15% to GDP for 2016, most of which came from state and local governments (0.11%).

The data from Michigan (through Q3) suggest that Michigan’s economy may have increased at a faster rate the nation’s in 2016 (table 2.). Stronger growth is supported by the increased growth in Michigan’s employment in 2016 versus 2015, while the nation recorded a decline in labor growth. Michigan’s demand for labor also increased. . While the civilian participation in the labor force for the nation grew by just 0.1%, Michigan experienced a 1.0% increase in its labor force participation rate in 2016. This helped Michigan’s nonfarm labor force grow by 2.1%, versus 1.8% for the national nonfarm labor force. This is significant because output can increase in one of two ways: increased productivity or increased labor. The stronger growth in labor helps to explain why Michigan’s economy may prove to have grown faster than that of the nation in 2016 once all the data are made available later this year.

Table 2: Michigan Main Economic Indictors

Indicator 2014 2015 2016
Gross State Product 1 1.9% 1.6% 2.1%
Unemployment Rate 2 7.1% 5.4% 4.7%
Participation Rate 2 60.5% 60.3% 61.3%
Nonfarm Job Growth 3 78.1 63.2 90.6
CPI – All Items 4 1.0% -1.3% 1.7%
  1. Year-over-year
  2. Annual Average
  3. Annual Average Employment – Y/Y Change in thousands
  4. Annual Average – Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint, MI (CMSA)

 One of the biggest drivers behind Michigan’s improving employment and economic performance has been the recovery in light vehicles sales, which has set new records for the past two consecutive years, coming in at 17.4 and 17.5 million units for 2015 and 2016, respectively. Almost 20% of Michigan’s GSP currently comes from manufacturing, not counting engineering and technical support, and almost half of Michigan’s manufacturing is in the motor vehicle and parts industry.

One of the biggest drivers behind Michigan’s improving employment and economic performance has been the recovery in light vehicles sales, which has set new records for the past two consecutive years, coming in at 17.4 and 17.5 million units for 2015 and 2016, respectively. Almost 20% of Michigan’s GSP currently comes from manufacturing, not counting engineering and technical support, and almost half of Michigan’s manufacturing is in the motor vehicle and parts industry.

For more information on the U.S. and Michigan economies and to see the complete presentation, go to the Recent Presentation tab on the Michigan Economy Blog and click on the February 28 U.S. and Michigan Economic Update.

Recap of the Automotive Insights Conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago–Detroit Branch, Detroit Association of Business Economists, and WardsAuto

By Martin Lavelle

On January 12, 2017, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit Branch, the Detroit Association of Business Economists (DABE), and WardsAuto hosted the inaugural Automotive Insights Conference. The conference was an expansion of the DABE’s annual Bob Fish Memorial Automotive Luncheon. As did the luncheon, the conference provided an opportunity for auto industry analysts to share their insights and forecasts for the coming year. The expanded conference format allowed for additional presentations that covered powertrain production schedules and upcoming regulatory requirements for new vehicles.

Sales Outlook

Haig Stoddard (WardsAuto) said that new light vehicle sales reached 17.5 million units in 2016, eclipsing the previous record of 17.4 million units set in 2015. The surge in new light vehicle sales seen in the fourth quarter of 2016 was correlated with the aggressive incentives offered by auto companies. New auto sales have now increased for seven consecutive years—the longest such streak since before the Great Depression. Against this backdrop, Stoddard forecasted a slight step back in sales to 17.3 million units in 2017.

Consumers are in a better position to enter the market for new vehicles, contended Paul Traub (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago–Detroit Branch). He showed that consumer sentiment has been improving, indicating the people are becoming more open to buying new vehicles. In addition to the aggressive incentives offered by auto dealers, loans with longer terms than normal (typically lowering the monthly payments), falling household debt, and fairly easy access to auto credit are facilitating new car purchases. Stoddard and Traub argued the pent-up demand for new vehicles stemming from the Great Recession has been satisfied.

Stoddard’s long-term sales outlook called for a further slide in light vehicle sales in 2018 followed by a rebound. While Stoddard’s outlook did not include a recession, he indicated that if a mild recession were to occur, new light vehicle sales would be 1.5 million to 2.0 million units lower four years from now. Stoddard said the long-run trend for new light vehicles sales would reach 17.0 million units by 2025. That sales level would then become the new standard for whether or not it was a good year for new light vehicle sales. New light vehicle sales will exceed long-run expectations if consumer demand for the latest vehicle technology accelerates. In contrast, new light vehicle sales will fall short of long-run expectations if consumers are enticed by deals for used vehicles, young people continue to delay household formation (on account of student debt and other reasons), and telecommuting becomes even more popular than it is today, among other factors.

Future Direction of Vehicle Production

Little to no growth in new light vehicle production is expected for the U.S. over the next few years, with gains made elsewhere, according to Stoddard and John Sousanis (WardsAuto). Stoddard predicted that North American production will rise over 500,000 units over the next seven years because of increased production of small cars and crossover utility vehicles in Mexico and lower production in Canada. Sousanis also said he projected the light vehicle production share of cars and trucks to stay the same globally over the coming years, but these shares are anticipated to vary more by region. Turning to his forecasts for auto parts manufacturing, he said that more than 50% of the growth in powertrain production over the next seven years will occur in China. Moreover, internal combustion engine displacement and the average number of cylinders in a vehicle should continue to move downward, but remain relatively higher among vehicles sold in the North American market. Slightly more diversification among transmission types is expected among future vehicles, stated Sousanis.

The diversity in transmission production will partially result from manufacturers employing different technologies to comply with the federal government’s corporate fuel economy (and emissions) requirements by model year 2025. (1) Brett Smith (Center for Automotive Research) outlined how the auto industry is trying to meet these standards. By utilizing different technologies, the auto industry is innovating faster than originally anticipated by regulators. For instance, battery cell producers have lowered their cost structures earlier than anticipated—with much less capital and smaller economies of scale than thought necessary. (2) Yet, the current pace of innovation is not sufficient, according to Smith, as the auto industry is still “nowhere near” on track to achieve the 2025 fuel economy goals.

To help manufacturers meet the fuel economy standards, Smith contended that regulators need to provide more incentives and infrastructure that support consumer demand for battery electric and hybrid vehicles. Additionally, the federal government should offer more “emissions credits” for introducing electric or hybrid technologies, off-cycle technologies, (3) and similar innovations in their vehicles than at present. In general, Smith said further discussions about the timetable for achieving the 2025 fuel economy targets should be held between industry representatives and federal regulators. In response to some of Smith’s points, Sousanis said perhaps the federal government might consider differentiating fuel economy standards by vehicle class (e.g., subcompact, mid-size and standard sport utility vehicle).

Concluding the conference was a conversation between Dave Andrea (Center for Automotive Research) and Joe Anderson (TAG Holdings). The conversation centered on the leadership style of Anderson, who serves as TAG Holdings’ chairman and CEO, and his 30-plus years of experience in the auto industry. Anderson said he always learned a lot about each business he purchased before setting expectations for his staff. Those expectations focused on the following aspects of the business: product quality, cost, technology, and delivery.

Focusing on the first item on his list, Anderson said he believes quality control systems should be installed before the production process begins. This way the quality control process won’t be perceived as just a corrective experience. According to Anderson, quality control processes, while costly in the short run, will have long-term positive impacts on throughput and financial performance. In closing, Anderson advised those in the audience to design and engineer their products to fit their consumers’ preferences.


Consumers are in a more favorable position to buy vehicles today than they were shortly after the Great Recession. This has boosted analysts’ short-term forecasts for automotive sales. However, the long-term sales outlook is less certain. While there’s proven demand for the latest vehicle technology, especially among young consumers, they may delay their new vehicle purchases because many of them have yet to form their own households. On the production side, growth is expected in Mexico and China. But not much production growth is expected for the U.S. Vehicle producers are striving to hit federally mandated fuel economy (and emissions) standards by model year 2025, but this goal currently seems unattainable. Despite producers’ ability to innovate more quickly than expected, they remain “nowhere near” on track to hit the 2025 fuel economy targets. More dialogue between auto producers and regulators is needed to ensure that the fuel economy standards are met in a timely and reasonable fashion. Finally, greater dialogue between management and workers, as well as between automakers and consumers, can help improve product quality and customer satisfaction.

Important Findings from the Reinventing Our Communities Conference: What’s Happening in Detroit Versus Other Cities across the Country

By Martin Lavelle

In my previous blog post, I discussed some of the comparative analysis on Philadelphia and Detroit that I did before (and after) the Seventh Biennial Reinventing Our Communities Conference—which took place on September 21–23, 2016. Here I want to recap what was shared at the conference. I got a lot out of attending this conference, which focused on urban economic development. The conference afforded me the opportunity to compare what’s happening in Detroit with what’s occurring in the other cities. More specifically, I learned much about how other cities are tackling issues such as affordable housing, workforce development, and the use of vacant land and buildings. And I considered how these strategies might be applied in Detroit or compared them with what’s already under way in Motown. What follows are some of the general takeaways I gleaned from the conference. Please note that throughout the conference, several panels occurred concurrently; I’ll be reporting only what I observed in the panels I participated in.

Day 1

The conference opened with a panel that discussed building an inclusive, transformative economy. The panel centered on the idea of inclusion, particularly as it pertains to an urban economy. Cities are often incubators of growth. But panelists argued cities must remain affordable, so that their populations, specifically, their lower-skilled segments, can benefit from urban economic growth. Also, the panelists reiterated that investments in different types of infrastructure lead to better employment and income outcomes. Finally, the panel contended that the largest barriers to inclusive economic growth are ineffective coordination or the lack of coordination between different levels of government. Southeast Michigan’s current bus system immediately came to mind as an example of ineffective regional policy. (1)

The first day of the conference concluded with a panel that discussed how institutions that anchor certain communities can address social issues better and boost local economic growth even further. Drexel University—which helps anchor the University City neighborhood in Philadelphia—is taking a significant step toward these goals with its Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships. The primary goal of the Dornsife Center is to build social cohesion by addressing instability that originates from problems in families, neighborhoods, and institutions. To do this, it provides enrichment classes, community meals, workforce development programs, and educational programs for students from pre-K to college. To me, what’s happening at the Dornsife Center sounds similar to what Detroit’s Neighborhood Service Organization is doing at its Bell Building. In closing, the panelists agreed that multiyear grants don’t bring sustainable changes to communities; more permanent programs are needed to provide long-lasting positive changes to communities in need.

Day 2

My second day of the conference began with a panel that examined where education and employment opportunities intersect. After experiencing a decline in its adult enrollment, Monroe County Community College in Michigan has shifted gears in order to engage more high school students and graduates, according to one of the panelists. Its career technology center (CTC) includes an innovation and entrepreneurship center and provides week-long programs that expose students to the technology used at the CTC. It is hoped that this exposure will steer participants toward good career pathways. Monroe County Community College also offers a “middle college program” that allows students to earn a high school diploma and an opportunity to earn college credits that can be put toward an associate’s degree in a health science or STEM (2) field. (3) As another panelist shared, in Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Career & Technology Center is preparing students to join the workforce in a different fashion. The center’s curriculum is based on industry suggestions made through a forum of occupational advisory committees. Moreover, the center’s equipment mirrors that of an industry setting. However, such a setup is expensive, which has led the center to seek funding from private sources. A representative of the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) explained how it is educating students previously disengaged from school because of a major life event and placing them into service industry jobs. In order to graduate from PYN, students must earn one industry certificate or credential. To track its own effectiveness, PYN follows up with former students one year after they’ve graduate to see if they are employed and have advanced in their jobs. PYN’s tracking of graduates has succeeded because it has used effective ploys to keep in contact with graduates, such as providing them monthly transportation passes in exchange for information on their employment status.

The next panel I sat in on during the second day looked at how vacant land can be reused in lower-income neighborhoods. “Pop-ups” are a fairly novel way to use vacant space and show the space’s potential if something permanent were to move in. In some cases, truly temporary pop-ups are welcomed, while in others, pop-ups that have the potential to become permanent fixtures are preferred. MILES.CITY works with tenants and landlords to bring retailers into spaces temporarily. While in their pop-ups, the retailers are educated on how to become financially viable and how to cultivate their business while minimizing risk. According to the founder of MILES.CITY, the average length of time retailers pop up in a vacant space is around ten days. That said, as another panelist noticed, Philadelphia has beer gardens pop up in vacant spaces and remain in those spaces if development isn’t ready to occur.

Efforts to revitalize vacant land in Cleveland and Memphis were also highlighted in the panel. Students at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative at Kent State University design projects to be installed in vacant spaces. Community members assist these students by providing feedback on the planning before the projects are actually set up in the neighborhood. The aim of these projects is to foster social cohesion through welcoming design and interactive spaces. The challenges confronting the design collaborative include the lack of resources and the inability to deal directly with the roots of social problems that trouble the community. In Memphis, MEMFix projects are trying to revitalize parts of the city; typically, these projects are one-day events that showcase a city block’s potential. MEMFix’s success led to increasing involvement from local government officials. MEMFix staff learned that revitalization efforts are more effective when the neighborhood’s leadership is strong and the revitalization efforts are close to other such efforts (clustering breeds success). One of the panelists, the executive director of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis, reported that ioby (a “crowd-resourcing” tool) has been effective for building small-scale projects, training neighborhood teams, and facilitating collaboration across income groups.

A panel held during the afternoon of the second day highlighted three cities that have transformed their previously unattractive business climates. Philadelphia almost went bankrupt in the 1990s, but is regaining its reputation as the “Workshop of the World,” with the creation of multiple innovation hubs within the city that relate to one another. As one example, Philadelphia is turning its North Third Street into “Nerd Street” (N3RD Street). Additionally, despite its loss of population and business over the past few decades, St. Louis is still seen as an attractive area for talent, innovation, and entrepreneurship because of its strong universities, relatively low cost-of-living, and civic and nonprofit leadership. Chattanooga was cited as the dirtiest U.S. city in the 1960s, but through renovation and beautification initiatives and the establishment of the CO.LAB (Company Lab) public/private incubator and city-wide broadband service, Chattanooga improved its economic prospects. Chattanooga and Detroit are similar in many ways. Detroit is overcoming its own negative reputation through similar initiatives to renovate and beautify many of its neighborhoods. Public/private partnerships are expected to play an important role in many of these initiatives. Additionally, city-wide broadband will eventually become a reality in the Motor City. The hope is that all these efforts will draw more residents to Detroit and allow the city to return to its entrepreneurial roots.

Day 3

The final day of the conference began with stories about the transformation of several communities across the country. These stories covered a wide range of strategies that are being used to improve cities’ economic prospects. Pittsburgh’s East Liberty Development, Inc., figured out where crime existed in its mixed-income neighborhoods and hired off-duty police officers to patrol their properties, which improved the attractiveness of these properties. Helena, Arkansas, created a start-up incubator that, with the help of graphic designers, improved the marketability of its downtown. The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund provides financing to residents in manufactured housing co-ops so they can purchase the home’s land. Rochester, New York, lowered its poverty rate through investments in health care that included coordinating existing services, leveraging community data, increasing support for early childhood education, and confronting structural racism and trauma. In Minnesota, First Children’s Finance subsidized rent payments for child care providers inside school buildings; through this financial support, child care became more widely available within rural communities. And lastly, The Food Trust in Philadelphia improved residents’ access to high-quality food by providing more nutrition education and increasing the supply of healthy foods in corner stores.

Economic revitalization and philanthropic investment in small and mid-size cities was the focus of the third day’s morning panel. The president and CEO of the Danville Regional Foundation argued that the “arc of growth” should intersect with the “arc of opportunity.” He claimed that when these two arcs do intersect, poverty becomes less concentrated, efforts to recruit and retain businesses are more effective, downtowns are revitalized without sacrificing affordable housing, and leaders are developed. Also, the panel discussed the difference between charity and philanthropy: The key distinction between the two was that charity addresses suffering by itself, whereas philanthropy tackles the causes of suffering. The panel also indicated that business recruitment efforts now include expectations of civic contributions. In Detroit, the Kresge Foundation is doubling down in its philanthropic efforts to help Detroit progress in its rebound. Specifically, over the next few years, Kresge will focus on building up neighborhood capacity; creating comprehensive, integrated business opportunity areas; improving early childhood development; and promoting artistic and cultural programming.

The conference concluded with the presidents of the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Cleveland, and Philadelphia sharing their perspectives on the Federal Reserve’s role in transforming communities. One thing the presidents said the Federal Reserve could do is increase small business representation at community development meetings. Another thing the presidents noted the Federal Reserve could do was more intensely study the connection between income inequality and economic growth. A subject the presidents explained the Federal Reserve should strive to improve on (though some progress has already been made) is studying transition periods (shifting from recessions to recoveries, for example) within the economy and the driving forces behind them. The presidents also said they have noticed a growing disconnect between human capital development and the demands of modern employment.

(1) See http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/02/06/robertson-car-commuter-detroit/22988565/.
(2) STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math.
(3) See http://www.monroeisd.us/departments/curriculum/middlecollege/.

Comparing the City of Brotherly Love with Motown: Reflections on How to Effectively Transform Urban Economies

By Martin Lavelle

When I think of Philadelphia, the following subjects come to my mind: Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Also, being a sports fan, I think of what a great sports city it is: There’s quite a passionate fan base for its professional teams, as well as Big 5 college basketball at the Palestra. Admittedly, as someone who works in and studies Detroit, it doesn’t naturally occur to me to compare Detroit and Philadelphia like I would Detroit and Pennsylvania’s other major city, Pittsburgh, with its historical reliance on one manufacturing sector, steel. However, as I looked more deeply into Philadelphia’s history, I found myself drawing multiple parallels between the Motor City and the City of Brotherly Love.

On September 21–23, 2016, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, other Federal Reserve Banks, and additional sponsors and supporters convened the Seventh Biennial Reinventing Our Communities Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was how to transform our economies. The conference’s sessions covered topics such as how to increase access to capital, how to supply a greater stock of affordable housing and address workforce needs, and how to make philanthropic foundations play a more effective role in communities’ economic transformations. This conference provided an opportunity for me to learn about initiatives in other communities and compare them with developments in Detroit. This will be the first of two blog entries in which I discuss the conference and some of my own analysis inspired by it. Here I will draw some historical and current comparisons between Detroit and Philadelphia. In my follow-up blog post, I will recap the conference and compare Detroit’s efforts to transform its economy with ongoing efforts occurring across the country.


As part of my usual preparation for a conference (especially when a city tour is included), I did a statistical comparison of Detroit and Philadelphia. The table below shows the statistical similarities and differences I found most interesting between the two cities.


Note: MSA means metropolitan statistical area.
Source: QuickFacts Beta, U.S. Census Bureau.

The population figures stand out for many reasons. First, it’s easy to forget that back in 1950, when their populations peaked, Detroit and Philadelphia were similarly sized cities. Nowadays, just six and a half decades later, Philadelphia has almost two and a half times as many people as Detroit. Back in the middle of the twentieth century, the population of each city made up around 57% of its respective metropolitan area. But as of last year, Philadelphia’s population share of its metropolitan area (26%) was noticeably larger than Detroit’s population share (16%) of its metropolitan area. The fact that Philadelphia’s population increased over the past 15 years boosted the divergence in population trends. Over the period 2000–15, Philadelphia added almost 50,000 people, while Detroit lost 274,154 people. In terms of demographics, Philadelphia is much more diverse. Also, a higher percentage of Philadelphia’s population has attained a bachelor’s degree or higher—thanks in part to the University City neighborhood, anchored by the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, and the presence of many other institutions of higher learning within the city’s limits. Given the divergence in demographics, the difference in home values isn’t surprising, but it still jumps off the page.

Philadelphia’s Financial Challenges

Like Detroit, Philadelphia has encountered fiscal challenges. And like Detroit, Philadelphia’s financial problems simmered for many years before boiling over in the early 1990s. The City of Brotherly Love became the first U.S. city to impose an income tax when it did so in 1939. (1) Philadelphia’s income tax remained in a range of 1.0% to 1.5% until the 1960s, when it started to increase, eventually reaching 3.0% in 1970 and almost 5% in 1985. (2) The increase in the city’s income tax rate was one of the leading factors in city residents deciding to leave for suburban communities. Philadelphia’s fiscal crisis peaked in 1990–91 when a structural budget deficit of $154 million was revealed, with expectations of deeper budget deficits in future years. (3) The city received financial assistance in the form of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA). PICA sold bonds on Philadelphia’s behalf. It also required the city to adopt a five-year financial plan that had to be approved in order to gain access to capital markets and state funding. (4) Led by Mayor Ed Rendell, the city followed its five-year plan while privatizing selected services, introducing more competitive bidding for city projects, and freezing wages for city employees, all of which helped lead to Philadelphia’s recovery in the late-1990s. (5) Philadelphia also began lowering its commuter tax in 1995, converging city and suburban residents’ respective tax burdens. (6) It has been estimated that increases in Philadelphia’s city wage tax cost the city 207,000 jobs from 1973 to 2003. (7) Two separate tax commissions created in the 2000s concluded Philadelphia’s tax system was outdated and needed to be reformed. (8) In 2014, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce released a public/private collaborative plan with the aim of organizing growth-based activity in and around Philadelphia. The chamber’s plan called for improving the city’s competitiveness, producing a well-educated workforce, creating an environment for business growth, and enhancing Philadelphia’s infrastructure. Such efforts will have a familiar ring to Detroiters too.

West Mount Airy: A Gift to Philadelphia from Detroit

The conference began with a tour of Philadelphia’s West Mount Airy neighborhood, one of the nation’s first intentionally racially integrated neighborhoods. The effort to preserve racial diversity within West Mount Airy was led by West Mount Airy Neighbors (WMAN). WMAN was founded in 1959 to deal specifically with the issue of racial integration. (9) One of the founders of WMAN was George Schermer, who tried to organize a similar effort in Detroit before coming to Philadelphia.

After Detroit’s 1943 Belle Isle uprising, Mayor Edward Jeffries formed an Interracial Commission and appointed Schermer as its director. (10) In the early 1950s, Schermer lobbied for an integrated housing development in Detroit’s west side. The development was to be called Schoolcraft Gardens. The Schoolcraft Gardens development attracted private funding and the United Auto Workers (UAW) as a partner. (11) Unfortunately, multiple forces prevented the integrated development from taking shape. First, the neighboring, all-white Tel-Craft homeowners association opposed the Schoolcraft Gardens development. Also, later on, a different Detroit mayor, Mayor Alfred Cobo, vetoed the approval of the development project. Soon afterward, the Interracial Commission was dissolved and replaced by the Commission on Community Relations, whose members would be appointed and could be removed without cause by the mayor. (12) Not surprisingly, when the City of Philadelphia offered Schermer the opportunity to head its newly created Commission on Human Relations, Schermer left Detroit. (13)

Under Schermer’s leadership, WMAN fought housing and education policies that advocated for segregation. WMAN and the neighborhood itself consisted of high-achieving, well-educated, progressively minded people, who were the demographic they looked to attract to the neighborhood. One might argue this allowed integration to work, whereas Detroit saw comparatively less educated groups across different races compete for similar jobs and economic standing, putting the groups at odds with each other.

Impressively, the commitment to diversity in West Mount Airy remains strong. Since 1980, at least 40% of West Mount Airy’s residents have been African Americans. (14) According to Sarah Zelner, who presented background information about West Mount Airy during the conference tour, the neighborhood has a strong LGBTQ presence, in addition to being diverse in terms of race and education. Efforts to maintain the neighborhood’s diversity and affirm its commitment to open dialogue include the long-running Mt. Airy youth baseball league and, more recently, monthly conversations about racial issues. In the evening of the day of the tour, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare shut down and turned into a street fair that showcased West Mount Airy’s diverse restaurant community.

All that said, the neighborhood isn’t without its challenges. Between 1950 and 2010, West Mount Airy lost around half of its population. This loss in population has impacted the dynamics of the neighborhood in many ways, especially in terms of its educational offerings. The high school located in West Mount Airy closed in 2013—a direct result of the population loss, as well as more-affluent students enrolling in private schools in other neighborhoods. In addition, while the overall racial diversity of West Mount Airy has been maintained, African Americans have been clustering closer to the East Mount Airy and East Germantown neighborhoods, which are both predominantly black. (15) While traveling through the area, I noticed a contrast between West Mount Airy with its homes constructed of stone native to the area and East Mount Airy with housing stock of relatively poorer quality. To combat population loss and preserve the neighborhood’s identity, West Mount Airy is trying to attract more immigrants, highlighting the neighborhood’s cultural history and mixed small business community as selling points.

Gifts in Return from Philadelphia? Possible Lessons for Detroit

The background material I read on Philadelphia’s West Mount Airy neighborhood discussed housing density (as measured, for example, by homes per city block) and its correlation with racial integration. The material cited multiple studies that suggested lower housing density is more amenable to achieving greater racial diversity. (16) This might be one lesson from Philadelphia’s experiences that Detroit might want to apply as it remakes itself. The Motor City is seeking to create dense and diverse population centers within its borders, as it once had decades ago. Part of this goal is being achieved by removing blight. But as neighborhoods are reorganized, city officials may want to keep in mind how racial integration was achieved in Philadelphia and not make the housing density of newly configured neighborhoods too high. Striking the right balance between population and housing density to achieve better racial integration and higher-level services for all citizens than at present will be a challenge, but Detroit can look to some of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods for some examples to follow.

Widening the focus back to the entire city, I think the topic of city residents’ tax burdens should be explored in greater depth. As mentioned previously during my review of background material on Philadelphia and as discussed somewhat during the conference, Philadelphia has reformed its tax system in order to have the tax burden of its citizens be more similar to that of residents in the surrounding suburbs. This is yet another lesson Detroit officials might learn from Philadelphia in order to draw more people to reside within its borders. Indeed, Detroit may want to look to reform its tax system as well. When studying the tax burdens of the largest city in each state and Washington, DC, (17) the total tax payments expected from Detroiters as a percentage of their income rank in the top five. (18) When breaking down tax payments by category, Detroiters’ income tax burden ranks near the top for families making $50,000 or more, and their property tax burden is the highest among the states’ largest cities and Washington, DC. (19) While Detroiters’ sales, use, and gasoline tax burdens rank relatively low, significantly high auto insurance premiums more than make up for it. Detroiters pay more than twice as much as the next city (New Orleans) and over three and a half times more than Philadelphia, which ranks tenth. (20) Current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has proposed legislation that would create an auto insurance product specific to Detroit, though this proposal has its critics. (21)

Following what initiatives are and aren’t working in other cities and informing city officials and stakeholders about the results of those different initiatives is important to Detroit’s rebound. This is one of the main reasons why I attended this year’s Reinventing Our Communities Conference. The Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago serves the function as information gatherer for the mayor’s Post-Bankruptcy Working Group, as well as the city’s group that works on affordable housing efforts. Efforts to strengthen communities in Detroit and elsewhere through philanthropic, private, and public partnerships have become more widespread in recent years. The Federal Reserve—especially the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago—has played a major role in bringing different types of organizations together generate solutions that will benefit those communities for years to come.

Read my next blog entry to get more details on the conference panels that I participated in.

(1) See p. 3 of http://economyleague.org/uploads/files/783716581668902685-the-sterling-act-a-brief-history.pdf
(2) Ibid.
(3) See p. 5 of https://www.philadelphiafed.org/-/media/research-and-data/publications/business-review/1992/brso92rl.pdf?la=en.
(4) See p. 1 of http://www.picapa.org/docs/SRFYP/SRFYP_FY16FY20.pdf.
(5) See http://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/22/magazine/mayor-on-a-roll-ed-rendell.html.
(6) See p. 31 of http://www.philadelphiafed.org/research-and-data/publications/business-review/2003/q2/brq203ri.pdf.
(7) See p. 27 of http://www.philadelphiafed.org/research-and-data/publications/business-review/2003/q2/brq203ri.pdf.
(8) See p. 15 of http://www.centercityphila.org/docs/CCR14_employment.pdf.
(9) See p. 42 of Barbara Ferma, Theresa Singleton, and Don DeMarco, 1998, “Chapter 3: West Mount Airy,” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 29–59, https://www.huduser.gov/Periodicals/CITYSCPE/VOL4NUM2/ch3.pdf
(10) See p. 1 of https://libdigital.temple.edu/pdfa1/Oral%20Histories/AOHWMPJZ2015030001Q01.pdf.
(11) See p. 76 of Lloyd D. Buss, 2008, “Chapter 2: City Influences Religion’s Response,” The Church and The City: Detroit’s Open Housing Movement, University of Michigan, PhD dissertation, https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/61748/ldbuss_1.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
(12) See Buss (2008, p. 77).
(13) See Ferma, Singleton, and DeMarco (1998, p. 42).
(14) The share of African Americans residing in West Mount Airy was 41% as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
(15) See http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/mount-airy-west/.
(16) See Ferma, Singleton, and DeMarco (1998, p. 41).
(17) See pp. 12-21, 24 of http://cfo.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocfo/publication/attachments/2014%2051City%20Study.final_.pdf.
(18) This ranking does not apply when examining families making less than $50,000 per year. A family is assumed to be made up of two income earners and one school-age child. See p. 13 of http://cfo.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocfo/publication/attachments/2014%2051City%20Study.final_.pdf.
(19) See pp. 16, 31 of http://cfo.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocfo/publication/attachments/2014%2051City%20Study.final_.pdf.
(20) See https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/studies/expensive-cities-car-insurance/.
(21) See http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2016/03/23/detroit-insurance-cut-rate-policy/82194396/.