Blog Archive

January 2011

A Governor Who Loves Data, and I Couldn’t Be Happier!

Governor Snyder delivered his first State of the State speech last night.  While I appreciated the upbeat tone and a number of his “initiatives” – securing funding for Pure Michigan, support for the DRIC project, and a new emphasis on reaching out to immigrants – it was the discussion around metrics and a DASHBOARD that really got my juices flowing.

“Let me start with a new concept. We are creating a means by which to actually measure Michigan’s progress. I find it curious that we’ve had State of the State addresses for decades. Yet I don’t know of one where we actually had a report card to gauge our success.”

Data Driven Detroit worked with the Center for Michigan to create a Scorecard for Michigan and will soon be releasing a Scorecard for the Detroit region.

We applaud the Governor’s recognition of metrics and the importance of measuring outcomes.  We hope to have the opportunity to share our work with him in the months to come.

Detroit Ranks Low on List of Literate Cities

Washingtonians are the nation’s most well-read citizens, but they’re reading less these days. And so, it appears, are city dwellers everywhere.  That’s according to the latest findings of an annual study (conducted since 2005) of the United States‘ most literate cities (conducted by Central Connecticut State University), which ranks the “culture and resources for reading” in the nation’s 75 largest metro areas. The study examines not whether people can read, but whether they actually do.

The 2010 study looks at measures for six items — newspapers, bookstores, magazines, education, libraries and the Internet — to determine what resources are available in each city and the extent to which its inhabitants take advantage of them. It  identifies “worrisome trends” consistent with other national research, including declines in newspaper circulation and book-buying, along with sluggish growth in educational attainment. Increases in Internet usage and stable library patronage aren’t offsetting those declines, it says.

The top cities have remained relatively consistent over the six years, with slight changes in rank from year to year.  Among this group, in addition to DC, are Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Paul, Denver, Portland, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Boston.

How do we rank?  Detroit came in 56th in the 2010 study, the same as in 2005.  The highest rank Detroit has achieved was 50th in 2007.

Let’s examine our ranking on the component measures that were considered.

Bookstores (per 10,000 population) – 72nd

Education Level – 71st

Internet Resources – 27th

Library Support, Holdings, and Utilization – 48th

Newspaper Circulation – 19th
Periodical Publishers – 54th

Robert Lang, an urban planning and policy expert at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, acknowledges cause for concern but questions whether results necessarily mean people are reading less.  “People are reading more things and less in depth. They’re getting briefed,” Lang says. “The bigger finding (is) what’s consumed is different.”

While one can always critique the measures that are used to create the index, we cannot avoid the fact that our region does not “measure up” when it comes to educational attainment.  In the 2010 OneD Scorecard, which Data Driven Detroit will be issuing this month, we compare the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint region with the other 53 regions of one million or more population on a variety of education measures.  Once again we find ourselves  in the bottom quartile for percent of college graduates.  As long as we continue to trail in this important measure, the other rankings matter little.


Openness is Indeed the Key!

As I prepare to make a presentation to the newest Leadership Oakland class (XXI) on January 12, as part of their Diversity and Inclusion section, and look toward Martin Luther King’s birthday on January 17, my thoughts go to two recent surveys that have been conducted in metropolitan Detroit.

The first, a three-year Gallup study of the Detroit metropolitan area and 25 others, entitled the “Soul of the Community,” has found, not surprisingly, that peoples’ love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. They point to three main qualities that attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces). Metropolitan Detroiters responded that social offerings, openness and beauty are far more important than their perceptions of the economy, jobs or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community. The importance of Openness, as “the perception of how welcoming a community is to different types of people, including people with young children, senior citizens, college graduates and minorities, among other groups,” to metro Detroiters is extremely gratifying for a region that continues to rank as one of the top 3 most segregated areas in the country. Our racial and ethnic groups live in geographic separation , resulting in what research has shown to be vastly different levels of neighborhood opportunity across our region. A commitment to openness and a recognition that all residents deserve equal access to opportunity must become our mantra.
The second survey, a Statewide Race Relations Survey conducted for the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, is also in its third iteration. While high profile events such as the O.J. Simpson trial and the 2008 Presidential campaign, have served to show differing opinions between African Americans and Whites, many hang on to the belief that racial discrimination is a thing of the past and the level playing field is the order of the day. Results from this survey of Michigan residents clearly show that this is not the case. African Americans were almost twice as likely as white respondents to say racial discrimination happens, with 59% of African Americans (33% for white respondents) saying racial discrimination happens all the time (31%) or happens frequently (28%). The 59% response is actually an increase from the previous two years (53% and 51%, respectively).
The survey found that 77% of African-American respondents said people of color have worse opportunities in education and employment than whites, up from 53% in 2008. Interestingly, white respondents also perceive that opportunities for people of color have diminished over time increasing from 29% in 2008 to 43% in 2010. Finally, when asked ” When do you think we will achieve racial equality?” 49% of African American respondents said “Never.” As for the others, 23% gave it 100 years, 16% thought it would occur in their lifetimes and an optimistic 2% felt we had it now.

We continue to struggle with the issue of “Race.” There are many who insist that we revisit the history of race and its place in making the city and suburbs what they are today. They say that we must study and learn from the past in order to move forward. There are many others who insist that continuous references to the past are unproductive and serve only to make race a bigger issue than it really is. They feel strongly that we are living in a post-racial society and we need to move on.
As I prepare to present the facts for the region and Oakland County, I find myself “hugging the fence.” I know that things have changed a great deal in recent years, but I also know, from surveys such as that of the MI Roundtable, that many folks see the results of institutional racism still clearly evident. True Openness requires us all to be vigilant and to work to make metropolitan Detroit a region where neighborhoods of high opportunity exist for all.

The Bed Bugs Are Coming; The Bed Bugs Are Coming!

“A decade ago bed bugs were still the vermin of lore–blood-sucking creepy-crawlies laid to waste by the amazingly effective (and toxic) pesticide DDT.”  It appears that DDT no longer gets the job done as reports of infestations are coming from all parts of the country.  Although the exact cause remains a mystery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chalk up their resurgence to “increased resistance of bed bugs to available pesticides, greater international and domestic travel, lack of knowledge regarding control of bed bugs due to their prolonged absence, and the continuing decline or elimination of effective vector/pest control programs at state and local public health agencies.”

While every major metropolis has reported infestations in 2010 (as well as a rapidly increasing number of smaller towns), some cities have been harder hit than others.  In order to get a handle on the “epidemic,” Forbes Magazine contacted the nation’s two largest pest exterminators, Orkin LLC and Terminix, to find the cities with the worst bed bug infestations. Each company has 400 offices nationwide and compiled a list of the hardest-hit metros, based on the number of calls they’ve received and bed bug jobs performed relative to population. From their lists of the 15 cities with the worst bed bug problems, Forbes created another one of their “rankings” by selecting out the 13 cited by both. (I have created a ranking list that I will be happy to send.)

What they found was densely populated urban epicenters with high turnovers of tourists and business travelers – New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – were among the worst sufferers, as were metros in Ohio – Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton – the state with the biggest bed bug problem.

We in Detroit are not spared as Orkin ranked us #5 and Terminix gave us a #3.  It makes me feel a little uncomfortable knowing that both my city of birth – Cincinnati – and my adopted home – Detroit – both come in high in the rankings.  I guarantee that both my home and that of my mother are free and clear, thus making me blameless.

Getting rid of bed bugs is complex. It can take up to several visits and treatments. While immediate attention is needed to eliminate the problem, the good news, as Edwin Rajotte, professor of entomology and IPM coordinator at Penn State University says, is that “bed bugs don’t carry diseases and are physiologically the same everywhere.” Unfortunately, he finds it necessary to add to this last point, “There aren’t super bugs in Detroit or something like that.”

Sure Glad That Decade is over!

While Michiganians, or Michiganders as our new Governor prefers, knew that the first decade of the 21st Century had been hard on the state, the first 2010 Census results, released on December 21, truly “brought it home.”  With a 2010 population count of 9,883,644, Michigan was the ONLY state to lose population over the decade, dropping 54,800 or 0.6 percent.  The last time the state experienced such loss was in the first half of the 1980s, though population gains in the second half of the decade outstripped the losses.  The past decade reversed this scenario as gains over the first five years were more than wiped out by five straight years of population loss.

In addition to losing population, Michigan lost another Congressional seat for 2012.  This marks the 4th straight decade of representational loss, bringing us down to 14 Congressional seats – the lowest number since 1920.  Between 1920 and 1930 Michigan gained four seats, increasing from 13 to 17.  The state reached its highest count of 19 seats in both 1960 and 1970.

Population change is the result of: Natural Increase, the difference between births and deaths, and Net Migration, the combination of Immigration and Domestic Migration (movement within the 50 states).  With the exception of immigration, Michigan’s numbers went the wrong way on all fronts.  The number of births decreased by 11 percent between 2000 and 2008 (latest year available), while the number of deaths increased by 1.5 percent.  The birth rate of 12.1 live births per 1,000 population was down by 12.3 percent over the decade and placed Michigan in the bottom 10 states.  While this decrease has been driven, in part, by economic uncertainties that have caused couples to postpone parenthood, the more important factor has been the loss of residents in their childbearing years – the younger singles and couples who have both the education and the flexibility to move.  This trend must be reversed because 2011 marks the year that the first baby boomers turn 65, a fact that in an older state like Michigan signals an increasing death rate over the years to come.

While declining levels of natural increase slowed growth, and immigration levels remained fairly consistent, though decreasing in the later years of the decade, Michigan suffered most from domestic outmigration.  Over the course of the first nine years of the decade, Michigan is estimated to have lost 537,471 residents to other parts of the country.  It is these movers that helped to grow states like Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Nevada and Arizona.

Read the rest at

Happy 2011! Look Out for Senior Boomers!

For years I have been making demographic presentations that incorporated forecasts of the age distribution of populations both national and local.  An important date incorporated in these talks was the year 2011.  This was the year that the first baby boomers would be reaching the age of 65 and once again change the fabric of the country – affecting Social Security and Medicare, driving up the need for health care workers, and affecting service delivery and housing options.  Well, 2011 is here and more than 10,000 Boomers a day, over the next 19 years, will be hearing the ‘retirement jokes’ and all the other wonderful categorizations that accompany that age, from those who reach the hallowed heights many years down the road.

While 2011 isn’t my year, I do feel it coming on very soon.  I ask that you remember, however, that 65 is the new 45.  We are not ready to roll over and go off into the sunset – although I was tempted to head for the southbound lanes of I-75 as I was coming back from a family visit to Cincinnati.  Many of us are not rolling over because we love what we do so much.  Others find they must keep working because, “through a combination of procrastination and bad timing, many Baby Boomers are facing a personal finance disaster just as they’re hoping to retire.”  In 2009, 36 percent of men 65-69 years of age (26 percent of women) were in the labor force.  Better health, combined with economic necessity, will keep these numbers up in the coming years.

Please know that a 10-day holiday break demonstrated quite clearly that I can easily fill my time with reading, dog walking and more intensive exercise, movie watching, internet surfing, household maintenance and travel.  Since I do love what I am doing, and since the lottery elves  failed to provide me with the winning ticket while away, 2011 will be my year to firmly establish Data Driven Detroit as a strong and stable organization.  Once that work is complete, perhaps 2012 will allow me to take more advantage of those senior discounts.  You will find that, unlike being carded to prove you are 21, no one ever asks you to prove you are a senior.  If you are willing to claim it, clerks are more than happy to give it to you.

Happy Aging Boomers!