Time is relentless, and has presided over a plethora of social and political changes in the US, many of which have been to the benefit of individual citizens and everyday existence. However, while it has seen great advancements in medical and technological progress, it has also witnessed the continued degeneration of once great places and cities, as they have become the victim of social and economic circumstances. Detroit is one such city in the US, and it was reported this week that they have become the only city to suffer a cumulative population loss over the last decade.
The Decline of a City
The figures are starting, especially when you consider the consistent population growth that the US has encountered since the turn of 1990. In the decade between 2000 and 2010, the US Census reported that the population of Detroit decreased from 951,270 to713,777, which is its lowest recorded figure since 1910. This is a stark state of existence for the city, which had a peak population of 1.5 million individuals in 1950 and was once the 4th largest city within the boundaries of the USA. This decline is sudden and vast, and with several different financial and social triggers.
At the turn of the century, Detroit was the heartbeat of the US automotive trade, and this prosperity and purpose caused its population to swell accordingly. Sadly, the recent economic hardship and painstaking recovery put paid to this, and seemingly tore the meaning from a city as well the livelihood of many of its occupants. This has had further consequences on the economic performance of Detroit, and the proposed closure of several city schools may well have been the final straw for many of its dedicated individuals.
So the city has seen a slow but steady exodus from its boundaries, as those who can seek more prosperous and generative pastures. This is unfortunately a necessary evil, especially in an economic climate where jobs and wealth are increasingly difficult to come by, and individuals and families have been coerced into finding work in more affluent states. However, while this course of action is understandable from the view of the individual, there is a danger that it may place even more of a burden upon more desirable and prosperous cities that already have consistently high population levels.
An Uneven Share of the Population
If you imagine that the population of the US as a whole has risen by approximately 200,000 individuals a year for over 2 decades, then it is easy to see the strain that is already being placed upon existing financial and physical resources. While this is challenging enough to the country and its government, it becomes intensified when cities that are hit hardest by the restrictions of economic hardship lose their occupants to more prosperous areas, and ultimately could create a distinct imbalance which threatens the future of even the most wealth orientated cities.
While a cumulative population loss is still especially rare in contemporary times, the circumstances currently afflicting Detroit may well soon influence other struggling areas of the US. If this is to be a portent rather than an isolated incident, then cities in rural, poverty hit states such as Alabama and Mississippi could suffer the same fate and see a steadily declining local population. Despite this, the overall population of the US would continue to rise significantly, which would of course leave attractive cities and districts over populated and ill equipped to serve their local number.
The instance in Detroit is currently and may well continue to be an isolated incident in the US, but a clear trend is developing if you consider the cities recent history. Just as they were devastated by the loss of trade and suitable employment for its residents, so too the southern belt line of US states are experiencing issues with base food prices and agricultural prosperity, leaving many families without the requisite income and sinking swiftly beneath the poverty threshold. They are then presented with very little option in terms of having to move away, as each individual has a sole responsibility to themselves and loved ones.
A Choice for the Individual Rather than Society
This is of course an issue in democratic rule, as though individuals have the freedom of choice and movement, this is designed to benefit themselves and not the greater good of the society in which they live. This liberty is certainly a significant contributor towards rising population, and may become even more pertinent if over population becomes localized and isolated in specific areas and districts of the US. While this is largely unavoidable under current rule, other triggers such as reduced government spending will need to be given great consideration in the coming years.
With such a vast national budget deficit, spending cuts are inevitable, but their nature and volume will be key to determining the recovery of struggling cities such as Detroit and those in the heartland of the south. If cuts are too extreme, then unemployment will become higher and businesses will continue to falter, with the result that less money is reinvested by citizens and organizations into the US economy. This would arguably be the final death knell for cities like Detroit, and create even further problems in terms of soaring population.