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Is Detroit Really America’s Poorest City? Let’s Look At the Numbers…

Downtown DetroitThe U.S. Census Bureau recently released new data about the economic health of Metro Detroit, and the numbers include positive signs of growth. At the same time the numbers were released, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon visited Midtown for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Chase donated $3.7 million to renovate a Midtown apartment complex, part of the financial institute’s ongoing $100-million pledge to the city of Detroit.

“I’ve been coming to Detroit for 25 years and unfortunately, I watched the decline of one of America’s great cities,” Dimon said, joining Mayor Mike Duggan. “I’m thrilled to be standing here today. We’re just doing our little part. We’re proud to be here today.”

In 2010, two years after the start of the Great Recession, the New York Times called the New York City oligarch “America’s Least-Hated Banker.” But in 2013, JPMorgan Chase reached a record-setting settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. The bank agreed to pay $13 billion in fines for its role in bundling toxic mortgages, a major factor in the Great Recession. The ensuing fallout, including the mortgage crisis and near-collapse of the auto industry, hit Detroit particularly hard.

Since then, income inequality has been rising at an accelerated pace. According to Pew Research, the wealthiest 10% of Americans own 80% of stocks. Still, Mayor Duggan has helped shepherd a number of innovative programs into action, like zero-interest home improvement loans and minority business loans. Many such programs would be impossible without the financial support of the nation’s largest banks.

So what can we learn about Metro Detroit’s economic health in 2015 from the new census data? Let’s break down the numbers:

  • The percentage of Detroit residents below the poverty level dropped slightly, to 16.1% as of last year. Unfortunately, the percentage of children below the poverty line was unchanged.
  • Median income for employed men was $54,734, compared to just $40,606 for working women.
  • There were big gains in the number of Detroiters with health insurance. The percentage of uninsured residents dropped from 11.3% to 8.9% in just one year.
  • Although median household income in Metro Detroit was largely unchanged, it’s still up significantly from the recession, when it fell below $50,000. At present, the median income has risen to about $52,462.

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