Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview
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Chapter 19

Challenges of the 1970s

THE 1970S BROUGHT CHALLENGE AND change to Michigan. Effects of the “counterculture revolution” in which “hippies” made nonconformity a symbol of freedom to restless youths, Watergate, the Arab oil embargo, continued fighting in Vietnam, and the P.B.B. crisis profoundly affected state residents, while beads, long hair, short skirts, drug usage, increasing “crime in the streets,” and antiwar protest marches became part of Michigan's social scene. As the decade neared its end, congressional insistence on stringent automobile emission standards and improved gasoline mileage, coupled with the aggressive recruiting of industries by Southern municipalities promising cheaper labor costs and lower taxes, raised the haunting question of whether Michigan could maintain its industrial economic base. Rising uncertainty concerning the future seemed to be the only common factor among Michiganians as they faced the 1980s.

Crime and Urban Blight

Perhaps the greatest problems Michigan confronted during the 1970s were a 300 percent increase in violent crime and the erosion of urban centers, both of which were especially evident in Detroit. Michigan's largest city lost 100,000 residents during the 1960s and another 100,000 departed between the years 1970 and 1975. Loss of industries to the suburbs and to other states, combined with a decline in the number of available jobs because of increased automation in manufacturing plants, created high unemployment, ranging close to 50 percent for black teenagers, in the inner city. Neighborhoods deteriorated, vacant houses and shops became common, and crime grew rampant.


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