Michigan incomes edge up, still trail pre-recession levels

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Incomes in Michigan went up slightly in 2018 but still haven’t recovered to pre-Great Recession earnings 11 years later.

The state's median household income was $56,697 in 2018, a 1% hike from the previous year, according to U.S. Census' American Community Survey estimates released Thursday. That's lower than what residents were earning in July 2007 — $58,214 adjusted for inflation.

Detroit has seen incomes rise since 2014, about 15% when adjusting for inflation.

"Everything is going in the right direction, although slowly," said Kurt Metzger, a demographer and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit. "The high-end jobs disappeared and haven't been replaced."

ONLINE DATABASE:  Explore our database of income, poverty, and more for areas over 65,000 in population in Michigan

Three cities where Michigan is seeing population increases — Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo — have seen incomes surpass 2007 levels, Metzger said. Kalamazoo's median household income — $42,759 in 2018 — jumped 19% over the last 11 years.

Detroit is not in that group yet, but has seen incomes rise since 2014, about 15% when adjusting for inflation. The city's median household income was $31,283 in 2018, essentially staying the same from the previous year, according to the Thursday's release.

"We are trending in the right direction, said Nicole Sherard-Freeman, the city's executive director of workforce development. 

She said the increase coincides with Mayor Mike Duggan's focus over the last several years to attract new businesses and work with current employers to fill jobs with Detroiters, most recently with Fiat Chrysler's promise to bring nearly 5,000 new jobs with a $1.6 billion expansion of its Mack Avenue facilities and $900 million to modernize its Jefferson North Assembly Plant.

The percentage of Detroiters living in poverty remained steady in 2018 at 33.4%. But the rate has dropped over the last five years, by nearly 6 percentage points

Despite the improvement, Detroit remains the nation's poorest large city. 

The poverty line for a family of four, including two children, is an income below $25,701. Michigan's poverty rate of 14.1% was unchanged in last year. 

Overall income and poverty levels released Thursday were stagnant last year in most of the state’s big cities, including Flint, Lansing and Southfield. 

Nationally, median household income rose 0.8% in 2018 to $61,937.