E.g., 01/29/2023
E.g., 01/29/2023
Revitalizing Detroit: Is There a Role for Immigration?

More than half a century after its peak as America's fourth-largest city, Detroit has become a byword for the urban decline and economic decay that have plagued the cities of America’s industrial heartland. Without its former core industrial base, Detroit has had to look for new ways out of economic decline. Detroit and other cities like it face several key challenges in their progress toward recovery, including a shrinking and aging population, diminished city resources, and a lack of high-skilled human capital. 

Immigration alone cannot save Detroit, as this report makes clear. But if carefully managed in the context of a broader economic development strategy, immigration may be a promising tool for boosting Detroit’s economic prospects. This report explores various immigration-related initiatives aimed at restarting economic growth that have been advanced by Detroit and Michigan leaders, the regional chamber of commerce, and civil society. However, it remains unclear how effective these efforts (and similar ones in other cities) will be. The same factors that have driven the native born from the city (such as unemployment, neighborhood blight, and poor municipal services) may keep immigrants away. 

Detroit is not alone in its efforts. While a successful outcome is not guaranteed, these cities offer an interesting opportunity to observe what, if any, potential immigration has to boost economic redevelopment. 

This report is part of a series from MPI's Transatlantic Council on Migration focused on how policymakers at all levels can work together to help cities and regions get more out of immigration. The reports were commissioned for the Council's eleventh plenary meeting, "Cities and Regions: Reaping Migration's Local Dividends."

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. A Century of Changes

III. Immigrants in Metropolitan Detroit

IV. Detroit's Eceonomic Strategy

A. Immigration's Potential to Support Detroit's Economic Strategy

B. Capturing and Retaining International Talent and Immigrant Residents

C. Possible Challenges

V. Conclusion