Hispanic Population Change in Southwestern Detroit and Surrounding Suburbs, 1990-2000: A Study of the Succession Process

By Ravuri, Evelyn D. | Journal of Cultural Geography, June 2009 | Go to article overview
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Hispanic Population Change in Southwestern Detroit and Surrounding Suburbs, 1990-2000: A Study of the Succession Process

Ravuri, Evelyn D., Journal of Cultural Geography

Rapid growth in Hispanic population in southwestern Detroit during the 1990s led to a transformation of the area from predominantly non-Hispanic white to Hispanic. Focusing on the Hispanic population, a typology of racial/ethnic changes between 1990 and 2000 is undertaken in 99 census tracts in southwestern Detroit and surrounding suburbs. Two of the tract types that experienced the greatest transition to Hispanic underwent substantial declines in non-Hispanic white population, but still experienced growth in total population. At the same time, these tracts experienced a decline in housing stock, which undoubtedly put pressure on the ability to secure housing. Although Hispanics could afford to reside in predominantly black tracts, few did so, probably indicating competition for scarce housing resources. Contiguous to the rapidly transitioning tracts is the suburb of Dearborn, which contains an established Arab enclave. Median housing values in these tracts were about three times that of tracts in the area undergoing succession to Hispanic population, which helps to explain why these tracts experienced little growth in Hispanic population. Not surprisingly, predominantly white tracts in the suburbs also experienced little growth in Hispanic population due to higher housing values. It is concluded that limited financial resources of Hispanics as well as competition for affordable housing in the city were responsible for the rapid growth and concentration of the Hispanic population in southwestern Detroit.

Keywords: Hispanics; urban succession; Detroit


The heightened level of immigration of Hispanics and Asians to the United States since the 1960s, as well as the high fertility levels of these two groups, has created a much more complex ethnic/racial mosaic of the US population (Kent et al. 2001). Asians and Hispanics are concentrated in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida (Zhou 2002). However, the further concentration of Asians and Hispanics in a few gateway states is not assured. During the 1980s and 1990s, social scientists, as well as the general public, noted the influx of immigrants, as well as the dispersal of US-born Asians and Hispanics (Guzman and McDonnell 2002; Bump et al. 2005), into states which traditionally have had small percentages of these two populations.

By 2000, Hispanics had become the largest minority group in the United States (US Bureau of the Census 2001), and continued immigration, as well as high natural increase rates, virtually assure that the Hispanic population will capture an even higher percentage of the US population in the future. One state that took part in this increase in Hispanic population was Michigan, which added 122,281 Hispanics during the 1990s to give it a total of 323,877 Hispanics in 2000 (US Bureau of the Census 2001). About 22% of the growth in Michigan's Hispanic population occurred in Wayne County, which houses the city of Detroit, the third largest Hispanic community in the Midwest after Chicago and Milwaukee (US Bureau of the Census 2001). However, the Detroit metropolitan region was categorized as a "slow-growth" metropolitan area for Hispanics between 1990 and 2000 by Suro and Singer (2002). The significance of the Hispanic growth in Detroit is that unlike metropolitan areas in the south and west, which have experienced growth of Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanics blacks over the past three decades, Detroit has experienced an overall decline in the latter two groups. Without the growth of the Hispanic population during the 1990s, the city of Detroit would have experienced an even greater decline in total population.

Recent arrivals to a city usually seek an ethnic enclave which acts to orient the newcomer to the availability of housing, employment, and other necessities (Allen and Turner 2006). Traditionally, immigrants or ethnic/ racial minorities settled in the less desirable parts of the city to take advantage of low-cost housing.

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Hispanic Population Change in Southwestern Detroit and Surrounding Suburbs, 1990-2000: A Study of the Succession Process


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