Detroit’s economic activity improved in March

By Paul Traub

In the spring of 2017, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago published a Chicago Fed Letter article that introduced an index that was developed to track the economic activity in the city of Detroit. This new index was called the Detroit Economic Activity Index (DEAI), and it was also briefly discussed in an earlier Michigan Economy blog entry dated April 27, 2017. The DEAI uses 23 Detroit-specific data series to capture economic activity in four major categories: income, labor, real estate, and trade. The index is calibrated so that Detroit’s average historical economic trend growth equals zero and is measured in standard deviation units from this long-term trend. This means that an index value greater than zero implies that Detroit’s economic activity is growing faster than its trend and a value less than zero implies that the city’s economic activity is expanding below its trend. An extremely negative index value, such as those during the 2001 and 2008–09 recessions, would likely imply the city’s economy is contracting.

Detroit Economic Activity Index

According to the latest information from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit Economic Activity Index, Detroit’s economic activity grew faster than its historical average in March. The complete history of the index through March 2018 is shown below (chart 1).

The March value of 1.02 is the index’s strongest reading since it debuted in April 2017, indicating an improved economic environment for Detroit following a slowing in the pace of economic activity in 2017. When Michigan’s contribution to the Chicago Fed’s Midwest Economy Index (MEI) is compared with the DEAI, it appears that Detroit’s economy was actually performing better than Michigan’s economy as a whole through the end of 2017 (chart 2).

While this assessment based on the index readings is accurate, it is important to remember that these indexes are stated in standard deviations from trend and that relative to Michigan as a whole, Detroit was recovering from a much lower baseline, as the city endeavored to emerge from bankruptcy. The fact is that since 1997 the average economic growth rate for Detroit has been very close to zero. This can be seen more clearly when comparing Michigan’s gross state product (GSP) and Detroit’s estimated gross city product (GCP), both indexed to 1997 as the base year (chart 3). Over the past 20 years, Michigan’s economic output has increased just 13.9% and Detroit’s economy has only improved a meager 0.9% (both values have been adjusted for inflation). March marked the first month since August 2017 that all four categories that make up the DEAI made positive contributions to the index: income’s contribution came in at 0.03; real estate’s, at 0.04; trade’s, at 0.03; and most importantly, labor’s, at 0.91. Given that all four categories of the index provided positive contributions to the March DEAI, the question that needs to be addressed is what caused the DEAI to turn negative in December 2017.

Labor’s contribution to the DEAI

A closer examination of the DEAI data points to the significant role that changes in labor played in both the January decline in the index and the February and March recovery that helped to push the index back into positive territory (chart 4).

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics point to the fact that the seasonally adjusted number of employed persons living in the city of Detroit since the 2010 U.S. Census peaked in September 2017 at 226,400 and then began to decline through January 2018 before bottoming out at 223,300 employees. This decrease in employed residents contributed significantly to January’s negative DEAI value of –0.7, the index’s lowest level since October 2013. After January 2018, employment rose for two consecutive months, and so in March, employment was back up close to its September 2017 level. While the contributions from the other three categories look to be relatively minor, the overall improvement in the data for these categories has been significant, especially after Detroit exited bankruptcy in December 2014.

Real per capita income

A recovery in employment not only plays an important role in improving economic output; it also significantly supports income growth. Since the DEAI is constructed using a mixed-frequency model, annual observations for real per capita income (PCI), available through the U.S. Census Bureau, can be included in the calculation. While the city’s income data is released at a significant lag, it is still an important indicator of economic performance. The most current data for Detroit’s per capita income are only available through 2016. However, the model is capable of predicting low-frequency variables from the information gained from high-frequency data. In March 2017, the model was used to predict Detroit’s 2016 real per capita income: This forecast was $16,085. The actual number that was released a few months later was $16,784, which made the DEAI model’s forecast appear to be quite reasonable. Based on the most recent DEAI calibration, real per capita income for 2017 is projected to be $17,500, a 4.3% increase from the 2016 level. The Detroit’s projected real PCI compares unfavorably with the nation’s ($44,723) and Michigan’s ($40,165)—which were up 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively. While Detroit’s real PCI is lagging those of the U.S. and Michigan significantly, the rate of increase in recent years has been encouraging (chart 5).

Detroit’s real estate market continues to improve

While it is true that prices for single-family homes in Detroit are still well below their housing bubble peak reached in 2003, their average was up an estimated 80% in March 2018 relative to December 2014. This is according to data provide by Realcomp, Michigan’s largest multiple listing service. As for commercial real estate, CoStar data indicates that the vacancy rate for commercial property in Detroit had fallen to 5.9% in the first quarter of 2018 from 9.1% in the fourth quarter of 2014. During the same time period, overall asking rent for non-office commercial properties increased by 47%—from $4.58 per square foot to $6.74 per square foot—and rent on office space increased 6.5%—from $16.03 per square foot to $17.07 per square foot.

Trade activity rebounds

One of Detroit’s most important characteristics is its location relative to Canada. Detroit is one of only a few spots in the continental U.S. where Canada is south of the U.S. border, and the city hosts one of the busiest ports in the United States given its proximity to Canada. Detroit currently has two tunnels and one bridge to Windsor, Canada, that are used to transport goods worth billions of dollars into and out of the nation. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, almost $150 billion in trade crossed through the Port of Detroit in 2017, up from just $98.1 billion in the 2009 (trade activity’s most recent trough at the port, reached during the Great Recession) (chart 6).

That said, the current level of trade activity is stretching the limits of Detroit’s current port capacity. This has created a need to construct a second bridge to Canada, which will raise the total number of border crossings between Detroit and Windsor to four. Construction on the Gordie Howe International Bridge is projected to begin this summer, and this bridge is planned to open as early as 2020. This project is expected to create thousands of construction and operational jobs in Detroit and Windsor.

Summary

While the DEAI is indicating that economic growth in Detroit has slowed from its 2017 peak, some solace can be taken from the fact that the index is predicting that 2018 will continue the city’s economic expansion that started back in 2011. Based on data through March 2018, Detroit’s economy is expected to grow by 0.7% in 2018, which would mark the eighth consecutive year of above-trend growth for the city. We will continue to track the Detroit economy with the DEAI and other tools, and report on the city’s progress regularly. Starting soon the DEAI will be accessible through the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s website on the Data Releases page and here on the Michigan Economy blog. Readers will be able to see the DEAI together with other national and regional economic indexes produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Because the DEAI is a mixed-frequency model and much of the underlying data is not monthly, the DEAI will be updated quarterly and published together with a summary report. For more information on this and other economic indexes provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, go to our website or contact Paul Traub at paul.traub@chi.frb.org.

Has Targeting Specific Detroit Neighborhoods for Public Investment Resulted in Higher Home Values?

By Martin Lavelle

In this blog entry, I look at whether targeted public investments in certain Detroit neighborhoods has helped produce higher homes values in those parts of the city. Before going over the results of such efforts, first let me explain why some have considered targeted investments to be a worthwhile approach to addressing some of the city’s problems.

In 1950, Detroit’s population reached its peak of 1.8 million.(1) At that time, Detroit’s land area of 140 square miles seemed appropriate for its population. Since then, Detroit has suffered a significant loss of population (a well-documented long-term trend). The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 estimate put Detroit’s population at 672,795.(2) Detroit’s population hasn’t been that low since the 1910s (over that decade, it more than doubled from 466,000 in 1910 to 994,000 in 1920).(3) Nowadays, Detroit’s footprint seems to be far too large for its number of residents. Moreover, dense clusters of population can be hard to find in Detroit’s 100-plus neighborhoods.

Over the past decade, the Detroit city government has undertaken many efforts to promote population density in the city’s neighborhoods. In 2010, then-Mayor Dave Bing announced the start of the Detroit Works Project—an effort to come up with both short- and long-term plans to improve the city. Included in this project was the provision of financial incentives for residents to relocate to more stable neighborhoods in order to deliver city services more efficiently.(4) After that part of the initiative was vociferously opposed by city residents, Mayor Bing decided in 2011 to focus on a couple of smaller initiatives. First, Detroit police officers were provided financial incentives to relocate to the Boston–Edison and East English Village neighborhoods.(5) Second, later in the year, Mayor Bing designated three Detroit neighborhoods as Detroit Works “demonstration areas,” which would receive increased city services. Those three demonstration areas were Bagley, Boston–Edison, and Hubbard Farms.(6)

So, for over six years now, the four neighborhoods of Bagley, Boston–Edison, East English Village, and Hubbard Farms have received increased investments from the city government. Arguably, the increased government service delivery and/or police presence should have made those neighborhoods more desirable places to live. And the greater desirability of these areas should be reflected in their having higher home values now. In this blog entry, I examine the changes in home sale prices in those four neighborhoods since 2011 (when Mayor Bing began his initiatives). I also explore changes in home sale prices in the neighborhoods adjacent to the four that received investments from the city since 2011 to see if targeted neighborhood funding has made a difference.

Profiles of Detroit demonstration neighborhoods(7)

For those unfamiliar with Detroit neighborhoods, I provide here brief profiles of the four neighborhoods of interest. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to all four as “demonstration neighborhoods” (though technically speaking, East English Village was only targeted with incentives to bring in more police residents and not designated by the Bing administration as a “demonstration area”).

Bagley

The Bagley neighborhood is located in northwest Detroit, bordered by 8 Mile Road to the north, McNichols to the south, Wyoming to the west, and Livernois to the east. The neighborhood anchors are Sinai-Grace Hospital, Marygrove College, and the University of Detroit Mercy. Across Livernois Avenue from Bagley are the even more stable, relatively higher-income Sherwood Forest and Palmer Woods neighborhoods, which border the Detroit Golf Club. After targeted by Mayor Bing for demonstration area funding in 2011, the Detroit Future City plan highlighted northwest Detroit and the Bagley neighborhood as a primary employment area with the potential for larger-scale job growth.

Boston–Edison

Boston–Edison is bordered by Woodward Avenue to the east, Linwood Avenue to the west, Glynn Court to the north, and Edison Avenue to the south. This neighborhood was established shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, after Detroit’s elite made the trek north up Woodward Avenue from Brush Park.(8) Boston–Edison is situated about halfway between struggling Highland Park and the northern edge of vibrant Midtown. Known for its wide, tree-lined avenues and large green public spaces, the neighborhood includes the Motown Mansion, the property built and lived in by Berry Gordy, Jr., when he ran Motown Records.(9)

East English Village(10)

East English Village was originally established in northeast Detroit as five ribbon farms in the 1800s. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s when home construction and migration into the neighborhood accelerated. The neighborhood’s boundaries are those that were laid out in the 1800s: Harper Avenue to the north, Mack Avenue to the south, Outer Drive to the west, and Cadieux Road to the east. East English Village is situated near the Grosse Pointes. A new secondary school, the East English Village High School, was constructed there in 2012.(11)

Hubbard Farms(12)

Hubbard Farms is situated in southwest Detroit, and is bordered by Vernor Highway to the north, Interstate 75 to the south, Clark Avenue to the west, and Grand Boulevard to the east. Hubbard Farms is named after Bela Hubbard, a geologist who became a lawyer and real estate developer. The majority of Hubbard Farms was developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.(13) The early residents of Hubbard Farms were industrial workers who worked in Detroit factories.(14)

Background

Before diving into the analysis, I want to provide some sense of the state of Detroit’s housing market. To this end, I present details on the types of transactions conducted in the demonstration neighborhoods and outline Detroit’s home assessment process.

Table 1. Summary statistics of home purchases in select Detroit neighborhoods, 2010–15
Note: REO means real estate owned, and refers to property owned by a lender (typically, a bank or government entity) following an unsuccessful sale at a foreclosure auction.
Source: Author’s calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

Table 1 provides some color on home sales in Detroit. Not surprisingly, all but a few of the transactions involved existing homes. Additionally, the majority of the sales involved foreclosed homes (real estate owned, or REO, sales) and was paid for with cash. Interestingly, a higher percentage of home sales involved mortgages in the demonstration neighborhoods than in the nondemonstration neighborhoods. A further look at the mortgage data reveals that, overall, home sales involving mortgages made up a higher percentage of transactions in the demonstration neighborhoods after the city government filed for bankruptcy (in July 2013) than before it did.(15) A greater share of home sales involving mortgages and a lower percentage of foreclosed sales in the demonstration neighborhoods relative to the nondemonstration neighborhoods may show the degree of stability already present in the former before Mayor Bing’s initiatives began in 2011. Also, a deeper dive into the transaction data reveals that sales rose in all but one of the neighborhoods analyzed in the period 2010–15 after Detroit entered into bankruptcy protection in July 2013.

Before sharing my full analysis of the demonstration neighborhoods, I will describe the assessment process that determines the market values of homes and its implementation in Detroit. All Detroit properties are required to be assessed annually. And 30% of Detroit properties require annual on-site visits.(16) Each property is assessed a reasonable market value based on local real estate market conditions. The study of housing market includes the inspection of new construction, analysis of market conditions, and observation of neighborhood advantages and disadvantages. Market conditions take into account property, neighborhood, and homeowner characteristics. Property characteristics include the age of the house, total living area, and lot size. Neighborhood characteristics consist of the number of sales, the percentage of nonresidential properties, the percentage of mixed-use properties, and other economic and social characteristics. Homeowner characteristics include whether or not the homeowner is an in-state or out-of-state owner and if the home is the owner’s primary residence.

In recent years, Detroit struggled to conduct assessments consistent with the practices outlined in the previous paragraph. In addition to the inconsistent and/or unsound practices followed by city assessors, the unhealthy local housing market contributed to the recent erratic assessments of Detroit properties. The Detroit city government was slow to react. Finally, in 2012, the Detroit Auditor General indicated layoffs in recent years and the lack of other resources contributed to the overassessments of home values.(17) However, it wasn’t until after the Detroit News reported on the overassessments in 2013 that the Michigan Tax Commission opened a probe into Detroit’s assessment process. The probe, which found that the average Detroit property hasn’t been assessed in 30 years,(18) resulted in the city’s effort to complete its first city-wide reassessment of property values since the 1950s. The probe finished earlier in 2017. The completion of the citywide assessment will most likely lower most of Detroit home market values further.(19)

Analysis

Chart 1 shows the median home sale prices in the demonstration neighborhoods versus such prices in the adjacent neighborhoods. The demonstration neighborhoods are depicted by the darker shades of colors in the graph.

Chart 1. Median home sale price, 2015: Detroit and select Detroit neighborhoods
Source: Author’s calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

Median home sale prices of the demonstration neighborhoods were not only well above those of the adjacent neighborhoods but that of Detroit as a whole. Not surprisingly, the largest gap in median home sale prices between a demonstration neighborhood and an adjacent neighborhood is for Boston–Edison and LaSalle Gardens. As mentioned earlier, Boston–Edison was a destination for Detroit’s elite in the early twentieth century. Even during Detroit’s tougher times, Boston–Edison was still a desirable neighborhood. Meanwhile, the gap in median home sales prices between Bagley and its two adjacent neighborhoods can be explained by their respective proximity to Bagley’s neighborhood anchors (such as Sinai-Grace Hospital) and the quality of homes in each neighborhood. All four demonstration neighborhoods possess relatively strong homeowners’ associations.

Chart 2 shows the change in median home sales prices between 2010 and 2015. I use 2010 as the starting point because it is the first full year of data available.

Chart 2. Percentage change in median home sale price, 2010–15: Detroit and select Detroit neighborhoods
Source: Author’s calculations based on data from CoreLogic Real Estate.

During the period 2010–15, Detroit’s median home sale price rose 21%. Over those years, Bagley and East English Village saw home prices increase more percentage wise than the city as a whole.(20) Median home sale prices in all four demonstration neighborhoods outperformed those of their adjacent neighborhoods. Only four neighborhoods saw positive changes in their median home sale prices. Median home sale prices for three of the four demonstration neighborhoods (the exception being Boston–Edison) were higher in 2015 than in 2010 (before Mayor Bing’s initiatives began). The same can only be said of one of the neighborhoods used for comparison, Pembroke, which is south of Bagley in northwest Detroit. Despite these findings, it should be noted that the demonstration neighborhoods began the period with higher home sale prices than the neighborhoods adjacent to them.

Conclusion

The City of Detroit announced in 2011 that specific neighborhoods would be designated as demonstration areas receiving increased city services. That year, the city government also announced certain neighborhoods would be targeted with incentives for police to relocate to them. Following the implementation of both of those initiatives, the median home sale prices in what I’ve referred to as the “demonstration neighborhoods” rose through 2015, outperforming median home sale prices in adjacent neighborhoods. This fact does not necessarily mean that targeted neighborhood funding was entirely successful. The demonstration neighborhoods could still be benefiting substantially from their strong historical roots, which made them desirable before any city investments took place. Also, Detroit’s housing market conditions (e.g., fairly low sales activity with continued prevalence of cash and foreclosure sales) may have slanted the data in favor of the demonstration neighborhoods. However, one could argue these results helped persuade current Detroit mayor, Mike Duggan, to pursue similar initiatives in the Clark Park, Fitzgerald (analyzed above), and West Village neighborhoods.(21)

(1) See https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027/tab18.txt.
(2) See https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/detroitcitymichigan/PST045216.
(3) See http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/05/detroit_population_drops_again.html.
(4) See http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2010/02/detroit_mayor_dave_bing_reloca.html.
(5) See http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/02/detroit_to_renovate_boston-edi.html.
(6) See http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110727/FREE/110729908/detroit-works-project-to-be-measured-in-three-demonstration-areas.
(7) Neighborhood geographic boundaries were determined by the author using information from https://localwiki.org/detroit/Detroit_Works_Project, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_neighborhoods_in_Detroit, and https://detroit.curbed.com/2013/8/20/10206758/finally-a-complete-attempt-at-mapping-detroits-neighborhoods. The neighborhoods chosen to be compared with the demonstration areas are largely residential and are not separated by a significant natural or man-made (expressway) barrier.
(8) See https://www.historicbostonedison.org/History.
(9) See https://www.historicbostonedison.org/Musicians-&-Artists-of-BE#gordy.
(10) See http://www.eastenglishvillage.org/history.php.
(11) See http://detroitk12.org/schools/eevpa/.
(12) See http://www.detroit1701.org/HubbardFarms.htm.
(13) See http://www.detroit1701.org/HubbardFarms.htm.
(14) See http://www.detroit1701.org/HubbardFarms.htm.
(15) The City of Detroit filed for municipal bankruptcy protection in July 2013 (and officially exited bankruptcy in December 2014).
(16) See p. 6 of http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/Auditor%20General/Performance%20Audits/2012/Finance_Assessment_Performance_07-2008_06-2011.pdf.
(17) See https://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/could-detroits-tax-foreclosures-be-unconstitutional/Content?oid=4522278.
(18) See p. 9 of http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/Auditor%20General/Performance%20Audits/2012/Finance_Assessment_Performance_07-2008_06-2011.pdf.
(19) See http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2017/08/30/state-lifts-oversight-detroit-property-assessments/105130886/.
(20) When 2016 data are included, Boston-Edison falls into this category as well.
(21) See http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170324/NEWS/170329889/study-detroiters-must-travel-outside-neighborhoods-for-groceries.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Logistics

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.

Talent

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

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.

Detroit

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

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

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.

Background

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.

portland-chart-1

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.

References
(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/.

Are Baby Boomers and Millennials Moving Back into Michigan’s Cities?

By Martin Lavelle

Currently, the two most often talked about demographic groups in the U.S. are baby boomers, those born from 1948 to 1964, and millennials, those born from 1981 to 1999. Even though they’re separated by Generation X, baby boomers and millennials have at least one thing in common: their increasing desire to live in cities. Some baby boomers who are also empty nesters feel the best way to stay active is to partake in city life where there’s always something happening. Many millennials prefer city life for the chance to live near a large group of young singles, in effect continuing their college experience.

Michigan offers three urban experiences that rival any in the U.S., with each experience unique in its own way. Detroit is in the midst of looking more like a typical U.S. big city with a light rail line and entertainment district featuring the new Detroit Red Wings arena set to begin operation next year. Also, the construction of additional bikeways, especially popular with millennials, should complement the city’s riverwalk, thriving restaurant scene, and historically renowned Eastern Market.

On the other side of Michigan lies Grand Rapids, whose comeback is a little further along. The transformation of Grand Rapids’ abandoned furniture plants into apartments helped persuade people to relocate downtown, allowing ventures like the city’s ArtPrize competition to succeed.

Finally, there’s Ann Arbor with its blend of unique restaurants and boutique shops located around the University of Michigan. The university’s reputation of drawing young talent has helped persuade nascent entrepreneurs and firms to locate in the area, leading to a building boom that has significantly increased Ann Arbor’s downtown residential inventory.

Is the renewed interest in Michigan’s downtowns, specifically from baby boomers and millennials, translating into population increases in those three cities? A recent blog by Kolko showed that since 2000, baby boomers and millennials have been moving back into downtowns in significant numbers. This blog will look at how the characteristics of the aforementioned cities’ populations have changed recently.

Population Changes

This analysis will compare population changes using Census data from 2000 and 2014. During that time, if we look at the central city area, Ann Arbor saw a small increase (3.3%) in its total population, while Grand Rapids saw a small decrease (-2%); Detroit suffered a substantial decline (-28.5%) in its total population. Looking at each city’s greater metropolitan area, Ann Arbor (1) and Grand Rapids (2) showed double digit increases of 10.5% and 10.4%, respectively, while Detroit (3) experienced a 4.1% decrease in its population. Given the changes in overall population, can we say that baby boomers and millennials (and groups that share their characteristics) are moving back into the cities?

In the chart below, population by age group, we see that young adults (15-24) make up an increasing share of Ann Arbor and Detroit’s population. At the other end of the age spectrum, in all three places and in their respective metropolitan areas, the baby boomer and silent (aged 75+) generations experienced increases in both of their population shares.

Chart 1: Change in Population Share by Age Group, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids

Chart 1: Change in Population Share by Age Group, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids
Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

As the next chart indicates, 20-34 year olds (millennials) now comprise a greater share of Grand Rapids’ central city population, the opposite of what’s occurred in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area. Ann Arbor’s population share that consists of millennials registered a small increase, also the opposite of what’s taken place in Washtenaw County. Meanwhile, 55-74 year olds (baby boomers) moved back into all three cities (and metropolitan areas). Ann Arbor and Detroit now have a higher percentage of those from the silent generation within their city borders.

Chart2: Change in Population Share by Demographic Group, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids

Chart 2: Change in Population Share by Demographic Group, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids
Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

The next chart looks at changes in population by education level. Grand Rapids saw a small increase in those with some college experience and a substantial increase in college graduates. In contrast, Washtenaw County saw a modest increase in those with some college experience and a significant increase in its college-educated population, the opposite of what occurred in the city of Ann Arbor. In Detroit’s central city, there were declines in both categories, whereas the Detroit metropolitan area saw a significant increase in those who had at least obtained their bachelor’s degree.

Chart: Change in Population by Educational Attainment, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

Chart 3: Change in Population by Educational Attainment, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids
Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

The next chart focuses on the number of families presently living in cities. Grand Rapids saw a small influx of families with no children while that number remained relatively similar in Ann Arbor. Both metropolitan areas witnessed robust increases in the number of families without children. Detroit witnessed a massive outmigration of families with children of all age groups from both its central city and metro area. Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids saw significant, but less severe, declines in families with children. In their metro areas, Grand Rapids experienced small increases in families with older children and families with young and old children, while Ann Arbor experienced a moderate increase in families with older children.

Chart: Change in Number of Families by Family Type, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids Source: Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

Chart 4: Change in Number of Families by Family Type, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids
Source: Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

The next chart looks at population share by race. All three cities saw increases in their Hispanic population, the largest occurring in Detroit. In contrast, all three cities saw decreases in their White population, though Detroit’s was small compared with the decrease in the metropolitan area’s white population. More recent census data suggests that Detroit’s White population increased in 2014 for the first time since the 1950 Census. (4) The Asian-American population grew in Ann Arbor and Detroit, while the African-American population increased in Grand Rapids.

Chart 5: Change in Population Share by Race, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

Chart 5: Change in Population Share by Race, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids
Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

The final chart looks at household income. Since 2000, the population in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids has increasingly comprised middle- to high-income earners. At the county level in both metro areas, the income distribution has shifted even more toward the higher end. Meanwhile, Detroit’s population still consists of mostly low- to middle-income earners. Comparatively, the counties that make up Detroit’s metropolitan area (5) have seen their income distributions shift away from the middle income brackets toward the low and high ends.

Chart 6: Change in Population Share by Income Decile, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids Note: 1 is the highest income decile (greater than $200,000); 10 is the lowest income decile (lower than $10,000). Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

Chart 6: Change in Population Share by Income Decile, 2000-2014: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids
Note: 1 is the highest income decile (greater than $200,000); 10 is the lowest income decile (lower than $10,000).
Source: Author’s calculations using data from 2000 Census and 2014 American Community Survey (ACS).

Conclusion

There is some evidence that three of Michigan’s most attractive and best-known cities are successfully attracting millennials and baby boomers. By age group, baby boomers and multiple segments of the millennial cohort now comprise a higher share of the populations of Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. The picture becomes less clear when looking at changes in population by educational attainment and income, with Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor drawing a higher-skilled citizenry.
The most telling chart for me is the one concerning changes in family structure. The number of families with no children grew slightly in Grand Rapids, stayed the same in Ann Arbor, and significantly decreased in Detroit, though at a lower rate than the overall population decline during that time. While those trends are somewhat encouraging, the trends describing changes in the number of families with children are discouraging. Families with school-age children moved out of each of the three cities at relatively high rates, and we saw increases in families with children in the Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids metropolitan areas. The presence of families in cities signals an acceptable standard of living to those considering moving into cities from suburban areas, providing opportunities for cities to grow their populations and thrive.

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Footnotes:

(1) Ann Arbor’s metropolitan area consists of Washtenaw County.
(2) For overall population and population by race figures, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area consists of Barry, Kent, Montcalm, and Ottawa counties. Otherwise, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area consists of Kent and Ottawa counties because of the availability of data.
(3) For overall population, population by race, and educational attainment figures, Detroit’s metropolitan area consists of Lapeer, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne counties.
(4) See http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2015/09/17/detroit-white-population-rises-census-shows/72371118/.
(5) For household income, Detroit’s metro area consists of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties because of the availability of data.

The state of the Detroit Public Schools discussed at the Detroit Association of Business Economists meeting

By Paul Traub

On Thursday, April 21, 2016, the members of the Detroit Association of Business Economists (DABE) were presented with an excellent overview of the current financial state of the Detroit Public School (DPS) system. The presentation entitled “Detroit Public Schools—Financial Crisis” by Craig Thiel provided an in-depth analysis of how DPS arrived at its current situation, with operating liabilities of $1.9 billion and total debts in excess of $3.5 billion. According to Thiel, a senior research associate with the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC), it took decades of declining student enrollments and five state-appointed emergency managers since 2009, each unable to solve DPS’s financial problems, for the City’s school system to fall into a state of financial crisis. In addition to ballooning deficits, mounting legacy costs, recurring cash shortage problems, and deteriorating facilities, DPS has experienced declining enrollment since the early 1970s, reaching an annual rate of 10.5% between FY2003 and FY2014.

Declining enrollment has become one of the most significant problems for DPS because of the per-student funding model used by the state. As schools lose students, they also lose funding. The problem with this model is that as enrollment declines, revenues fall almost immediately while expenses fall very slowly. This is because public education is personnel-intensive, with about 60% of a district’s general fund budget going to pay instructors. For example, if a school loses 10% of its students across multiple grade levels in a single year, it would lose the per-student funding associated with those students almost immediately. However, the school still needs to provide classroom instruction for all of the remaining students, which might require the same number of teachers as before. In addition, the fixed cost of maintaining the facility would not likely change. This results in an operating deficit for the school.

In addition to the operating shortfalls, the schools need to continue to fund accrued legacy costs for pensions and health care. Adding to the problem, DPS has been funding its declining enrollment and legacy cost deficits through borrowing for years. As enrollment declines, there is less per-student funding available to cover the required debt and legacy payments. According to estimates, in FY2016 only 40% of the per-pupil allocation will be available for classroom instruction. The rest will go to paying legacy costs and to service debt. Less money for the classroom has resulted in a decline in academic performance, prompting those parents who have the means to do so to seek alternatives for their children’s education, further exacerbating the decline in DPS enrollment. Today, only about 40% of all Detroit K-12 students attend Detroit Public Schools. The state of Michigan legalized chartered schools in 1993. By 1995, the first chartered schools opened in Michigan. However, because of Michigan’s per-student funding model, if a student leaves a traditional public school to go to a charter school, the funding follows the student, while DPS retains all the legacy cost. This results in increasing the debt payments per student, resulting in even less money for public school classroom instruction.

A recent proposal approved by the state senate would permit Detroit to adopt a model used by other distressed school districts in the state. Under the proposed model, the DPS would be separated into two parts. One part would be responsible for the debt, and the other would be responsible for educating the students. The plan calls for the creation of a Community School District with an elected board. The district would operate under a Financial Review Commission to review the actions of the elected board and a Detroit Education Commission, which would be responsible for overseeing academic performance. The Michigan House of Representatives is still working on the plan. However, Thiel stated that time to act was yesterday and until the structural challenges currently faced by DPS are fixed, enrollment will continue to decline and the problems of the DPS will only get worse.

To see a copy of Thiel’s presentation click on “Detroit Public Schools–Financial Crisis.”