Much ink has been spilled on the decline of Detroit, once nicknamed the “Paris of the West.” Conservatives credit its failures to Democratic leadership while Leftists of all flavors conclude it’s Big Racism — America’s largest industry. It is certainly no secret that Detroit has had Democratic mayors and “liberal” politicians of all kinds for several consecutive decades and this country has a long history of troubled race relations. Does either stance explain Detroit’s demise? Let us compare it to a lesser-known city.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, Detroit was quickly becoming one of the busiest and most populous cities in the world. In addition to their well-known automotive success, Detroit had a prospering defense industry leading up to and during World War II. Between the growth of these two enterprises, there simply were not enough workers to go around. Theoretically, this would cause an increase in bargaining power for the men with an ensuing increase in wages. However, that’s not how this country works. Instead, blacks were handed a memo, perhaps read aloud to them by the white messenger, and tens of thousands began arriving in Detroit every year.
Minneapolis grew around Saint Anthony Falls, the highest waterfall on the Mississippi River, where they derived much of the power for their lumber and milling industries. From the Minneapolis Wiki:
Millers have used hydropower elsewhere since the 1st century B.C., but the results in Minneapolis between 1880 and 1930 were so remarkable the city has been described as “the greatest direct-drive waterpower center the world has ever seen.”
Cadwallader C. Washburn, founder of what is now General Mills, and Charles A. Pillsbury, founder of, believe it or not, The Pillsbury Company, were revolutionizing the flour industry. Minnesota’s flour products were considered, at the time, to be the best in the world.
Each of these cities, then, were home to the epicenter for their respective industries.
To give the Reader an idea of their quality of life: the median income of Detroit in 1950 was $3,465, or $36,103 in 2018 dollars, while the median cost of a home in Michigan was $66,204 in 2018 dollars. The median income of Minneapolis was $3,078, or $32,071 in 2018 dollars, while the median cost of a home in Minnesota was $68,974 (2018 dollars).
|Median Cost of a Home and Median Income in 2018 Dollars|
|Year||Michigan House||Detroit Income||Minnesota House||Minneapolis Income|
In 1910, 90 percent of all blacks lived in the South and only six thousand lived in Detroit, making the city 98.8 percent white. By 1930, Detroit found itself home to 120 thousand blacks, 7.7 percent of the total population.
In 1950, it was home to 1.85 million people, making it the fourth-largest city in America. Of that, 1.55 million were white, native and foreign-born — approximately 83.6 percent of the total population. The number of blacks in the city totaled 300 thousand, or 16.2 percent.
This was smack-dab in the middle of the Great Migration, wherein six million blacks left the rural South for the cities in Northeast, Midwest, and Western America now that they were no longer allowed to be slaves. In just 40 years, Detroit saw an increase in the black population of 4,908 percent, almost 50-fold.
Minneapolis differed substantially. The entire state of Minnesota only contained 1.75 million people in 1900 but had over 3.41 million by 1960, a near-doubling of their population in 50 years. However, their influx of immigration was almost entirely German, Norwegian, Irish, and Swedish — a swarthy group.
Minneapolis housed 522 thousand people in 1950, of which 513 thousand were white — a whopping 98.4 percent. Only 6,807 blacks were living in Minneapolis at the time, which was 1.3 percent of the total population.
Minneapolis and Detroit, while much different, had similar trajectories in the mid-twentieth century. Both economies saw near-exponential growth and a man could easily provide for a family on a single income. Quality of life in these two respective areas was as good as it got.
Detroit is now a city people travel great lengths to avoid. The current data for the cost of a housing unit is specific to the city while the most precise data I could gather for 1950 included the whole state, so the two time periods are not perfectly comparable but the trends are obvious.
|Median Cost of a Home and Median Income in 2018 Dollars|
|Year||Michigan House||Detroit Income||Minnesota House||Minneapolis Income|
|1950||$66,203.59 (state)||$36,103.14||$68,974.22 (state)||$32,070.84|
|2018||$43,845.38 (city)||$28,517.94||$204,577.63 (city)||$67,303.68|
The median income of Minneapolis and the median cost of a house has increased by 110 and 197 percent, respectively, since 1950. Sort of unfortunate for those who’d like to buy a home in Minneapolis, but that happens when white people want to live in a place.
the Paris of the West Detroit, the median income and median cost of a house has dropped by 21 and 34 percent, respectively.
Additionally, Minnesota currently has a poverty rate of 20.7 percent compared to 37.9 percent for Detroit. Was the cause Democrats or R A C I S M? Neither?
The conservative argument always hits this, verbatim: “if you want to see what happens when you let only Democrats run a city, look at Detroit.” What would one who grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota think of this? The vast majority of the citizens in the metropolitan area claim to be “liberal” and their apolitical neighbors lean toward Democrats when pressed at the voting booth.
If we look at the first Democrat elected in the 40s for each of these states we see nearly identical trends. Of the 74 years since 1945, Minneapolis has had a Democratic mayor for 64 years, which is 86.5 percent of the time. Detroit, in the 71 years since 1948, has had a Democratic mayor for 59 years, 83.1 percent of the time. That’s right, Minneapolis is slightly more Democratic than Detroit.
However, Minneapolis is a sanctuary compared to Detroit. Does the belief shift into, well, the Democratic mayors of Detroit are more left-wing than those of Minneapolis? How would one quantify such a claim? As a percentage of their respective GDP’s:
- Minnesota’s welfare spending is higher than Michigan’s, 1.4 and 1.01 percent, respectively.
- Michigan spends more on education than Minnesota, 5.9 and 5.36 percent, respectively.
- Michigan spends more than Minnesota on healthcare, 4.2 and 3.7 percent, respectively.
- Michigan spends more than Minnesota on pensions, 1.82 and 1.39 percent, respectively.
Is the Detroit/Minneapolis discrepancy caused by Michigan spending 0.5 percent more than Minnesota on healthcare and pensions? Does that explain why Detroit has the fourth highest murder rate in America and a violent crime rate almost double that of Minneapolis?
A conservative might rebut, “hey but so, Michigan spends more on education, that’s a huge waste of their money!” That would imply that spending more money on the black students of Detroit is a waste of money, and that sounds kind of racist, bucko. The Conservative Argument holds no water. Was R A C I S M the cause of Detroit’s decline?
Redlining at 1950 RPM
The act of redlining is, through various methods, barring access to specific neighborhoods for a certain group; in this case, eliminating the ability for blacks to buy/rent property in white communities.
If Detroit were terribly segregated and chock-full of racist whites trying to keep them out, we should see that black homeownership was particularly low in Michigan when compared with the rest of the country. Of course, it was not. We have data on black homeownership for 1990, 1980, 1970, and 1950, but not 1960.
Blacks were clearly better equipped to buy homes in Detroit when compared with the whole of the country, so why is redlining perceived as such a devastating practice? At worst, it caused about a 10 percent negation in ownership. Today, black rates of homeownership are identical to 1970, 41.4 percent as of 2017. They’ve had more than 50 years to grow after redlining was outlawed, yet the rate sits unmoved.
Blacks were allowed to migrate en masse into one of the world’s greatest cities and begin work in well-paying fields immediately upon arrival, so is the problem that they didn’t have enough access to white neighbors? Ipso facto, the problem with black neighborhoods is that they aren’t white enough.
The Good Blacks Paradox. All blacks are smart, competent, good people, which is why we need more of them in academia, corporations, sports, media, entertainment, communities, and our bedrooms. However, neighborhoods/institutions that are predominately black are worse in every quantifiable metric than ones predominately white. Therefore, it’s imperative that we let blacks into white-dominated areas to
help the blacks enrich the whites, who are doing better in every way but will benefit greatly from the addition of the blacks, who are failing miserably.
Anyway, for every decade, black homeownership in Michigan is higher than the national mean for blacks by an average of 7.3 percent. What we see here, if anything, is that Minnesota has a far more troubled history of segregationist behavior than Michigan. Almost 50 percent of all Minnesota blacks had homes in 1950 and only 30.9 percent had homes in 1990, despite passing a state law in 1953 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibiting restrictive covenants.
My hypothesis is that the blacks capable of moving out of the South into Minnesota, which clearly wanted nothing to do with them, were of much higher quality than the average black emigrating out of the South.
How could this not be the case? Almost half of these blacks owned a home in a state that only a couple decades prior passed a eugenics law, sterilizing one thousand patients in Faribault state hospital, had a brief stint with the KKK in the 20s, and began restrictive covenants in 1910, a few of which weren’t discovered until 2017.
The blacks who made their way to Minnesota and managed to buy a home with all of that going against them must have represented the talented tenth (or hundredth) of all blacks. With a mean IQ of 85 and a standard deviation of 13-15, this would place these talented tenth blacks (TTB’s) at a skew-right mean of ~100 — the standard for whites. Therefore, the talented, conscientious blacks mostly fit in with normal whites during this time.
Moreover, the reason the black homeownership rates dropped so precipitously is because of how quickly the value of homes increased in Minneapolis — a sign that the economy continued its explosion. It’s possible that restrictive covenants were written into deeds after the 1953 and 1968 laws, but that would obviously be illegal — so it likely explains exceedingly little of the decrease in homeownership.
What’s more likely to explain Minnesota’s drop in black homeownership is the fact that blacks slowly bled into the predominately white economy. Detroit was artificially inflated with a black population so fast that the white Detroit natives would rather flee than worry about their flourishing economy. Minnesota didn’t see large black migration until much later in the twentieth century, giving whites time to keep their economic foothold. Moreover, the more normal blacks coming in this period, no longer the TTB’s, are largely incapable of thriving in the white economy of Minneapolis, at least in comparison to their mid-twentieth century TTB counterparts. Today, we see the white median income is more than double that of the black median income in Minnesota, not much different than the rest of the country.
If we were forced to call one state more “racist” than the other, we might lean toward Minnesota. So, the question again becomes, what happened to Detroit?
The Dawn of White Flight
White flight is a phenomenon wherein whites will move into or create suburbs to avoid living in close proximity with blacks. It is so ubiquitous that even Wikipedia has an article explaining its occurrences in Africa, Europe, Oceania, and North America — almost every place in which it could possibly happen.
The mid-twentieth century was the expiration of legal segregation and most of the politicians in wholly white areas, Europe and the Northern United States, became queasy and outspoken toward Jim Crow, apartheid, and white-only water fountains.
Those who were not in favor of ending these segregationist policies were the ones near blacks. This must be repeated. The whites who actually rubbed shoulders with blacks were the ones who instituted legal segregation and fought for its continuance across the globe. The whites who had no interaction with blacks on a daily or even yearly basis were the only whites opining for desegregation.
Now the Reader sees, Detroit’s biggest problem since 1950 is that whites want nothing to do with her. The capitalists of Detroit filled their factories with blacks and the whites who saw their neighborhood get bombarded with these newcomers began creating suburbs outside of the city. They got their cheap labor, but what was the long-term cost?
In 1950 there were 1.55 million whites in Detroit. By 1960, over 360 thousand had flown the coop. Over the next decade, another 344 thousand. Then, the whites saw the writing on the wall and almost 437 thousand left in the decade following 1970. By 2018, almost 95.7 percent of whites had deserted Detroit city — only 67 thousand are left.
For Minneapolis, only 1.3 percent of their population was black in 1950. While the number of blacks in Minnesota did increase to 53,344 in 1980, they were still only 1.3 percent of the state’s population. A tale of two cities indeed.
The Civil Rights activists got what they wanted, access for blacks to a white area. However, a peculiar thing happened when the whites left: it turned into a bad area. What caused this unprecedented decline?
Was it bad schools? No. The quality of a teacher is essentially meaningless once the student is in his/her teens and more money is spent on black students than their white peers. The quality of the student is the only important factor in school success.
Is it the judicial system? We’ll ignore that Detroit had a black mayor from 1974 to 2014, but the answer is still no. The rate at which blacks are killed by cops is disproportionately low considering how much violent crime they commit and how much whites are killed by cops. Additionally, the National Crime Victimization Survey closely resembles that of the Uniform Crime Report released by the FBI every year.
We also know it wasn’t the haunting presence of poverty, Detroit was utopian when the blacks arrived.
Conservatives and Leftists fail to explain (and fix) Detroit because they are unable to answer a few paramount questions.
- Is race more than skin deep?
- Are there significant black/white discrepancies in general intelligence?
- Do blacks behave differently than whites?
- Does race predict crime better than poverty?
Answering all of these questions is beyond the scope of this article. In the Writer’s truly very humble opinion, it seems that the sons of Africa make their home of Africa, no matter the location. We give blacks complete access to one of the world’s most prosperous cities and within a few decades, we are left with a slum hardly distinguishable from Haiti or Cameroon. As Teddy K. said, “the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and its consequences have been a disaster for the white race.”
The irony: since this country’s elite are hellbent on turning America into various shades of brown, Minneapolis will resemble Detroit in a couple of decades should its current influx of Africans continue.