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Detroit gains residents for first time in decades. Check your city’s change

Detroit saw its 2023 population estimate rise after the city successfully argued that many of homes it demolished in the past decade were uninhabitable and abandoned. (Shutterstock)
  • Detroit’s estimated population rose by nearly 2,000 in 2023, a dramatic reversal after years of declines
  • The change came, in part, because the Census Bureau acknowledged the city’s demolished homes were mostly abandoned and not occupied
  • East Lansing and Coldwater also added more than 1,000 people from 2022 to 2023, according to the estimates

Detroit’s population rose in 2023 for the first time in years, according to new Census estimates that experts say acknowledges the city did not lose thousands of people when it demolished scores of blighted and abandoned homes.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Detroit had a population of 633,218 in 2023, up 1,852 from the prior year.

That’s a stark reversal from 2022, when the bureau estimated the city’s population had fallen to 620,376, down nearly 19,000 from the 2020 decennial population count.


Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who once told voters to only judge him if the population rose, lauded the news.

 "We have known for some time that Detroit's population has been growing, but this is the first time the US Census Bureau has confirmed it in its official estimate," Duggan said in a statement. 

“This day is for the Detroiters who stayed and for everyone who has put in the hard work to make Detroit a great place to live."


The estimates show population increases for East Lansing, Coldwater in southern Michigan, Sterling Heights in Macomb County, Grandville and Wyoming in Kent County, Lyon Township in Oakland County and Houghton in the Upper Peninsula.

Detroit’s population bump moved it up in the rank of the country’s most populous cities, from 29th in 2022 to 26th in 2023. 

In 1950, when Detroit had over 1.8 million people, it was the fifth most populous city in the country.

Angered by what they felt was an undercount in 2020, Duggan and the city sued the Census Bureau in March, following a similar 2022 challenge. The suit argued its methodology, which relied in part on the number of housing units, unfairly punished the city for demolitions.

Population estimates are important because millions of dollars in federal aid is tied to population.

Kurt Metzger, the founder of Data Driven Detroit and a population consultant, said the Census Bureau removed two people for every demolition — even though Detroit said no one was living in most of the blighted buildings that the city spent tens of millions to clear.

“The city has been screwed left and right with all these uninhabited buildings,” Metzger said Thursday.

The Census Bureau makes an official count every 10 years but also produces annual estimates based on migration patterns, births and deaths and the number of housing units a community has.

However, communities do not know how many housing units the bureau attributes to them. They can only provide evidence of new construction and demolition.

The Census Bureau did not say what changes — if any — led to Detroit’s population bump. 

In an email to Bridge Michigan, a spokesperson said the bureau “cannot say why a population fluctuates, only that it does. We will not speculate on the reasons for population change.”

But local officials who have worked with the city said Detroit benefitted from a change in how the bureau looked at demolitions. 

Sirisha Uppalapati, the demographic coordinator for the Southeast Michigan Regional Conference of Governments, said the bureau told the city, her organization and the state demographer that it agreed that each demolition did not remove a housing unit.

That, combined with an increase in the number of new housing permits, led to an actual increase in the population count, Uppalapati and Metzer said. The city averaged 600 permits for new housing in 2017-20, then had 1,200 in 2022 and 1,000 last year, Uppalapati said.

“This gain is finally recognition that (the city) is gaining population,” Metzger said. “I think the growth will continue and will accelerate in the next couple of years.”

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