Detroit median household income up slightly in 2017, but poverty rate hardly improves

Detroit median household income up slightly in 2017, but poverty rate hardly improves

Detroit’s median household income was on an upward climb in 2017, but the poverty rate stayed pretty much the same and much work needs to be done to move that needle.

Nearly 35 percent of Detroiters are still living in poverty. While that’s down 1.2 percent from 2016, Detroit still remains the poorest city in the nation. That small decrease means about 8,000 fewer Detroiters were living in poverty in 2017, according to the City of Detroit.

In 2016, Detroit’s poverty rate dropped more sharply by 4.1 percent from the previous year. The last time the poverty rate in Detroit was lower was in 2008, when it was 33.3 percent.

As for the city’s median household income, it rose 8 percent to $30,344 last year from $28,099 in 2016, a 7.5 percent increase from the year before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s compared to new national numbers that showed an approximately 2 percent increase in average household income in the United States. When adjusted for inflation, Detroit’s increase is still double the national average.

Cumulatively since 2015, this means that the average Detroit household has seen an income increase of about $4,500 annually, according to the City of Detroit.

However, the increase is still nowhere near the median household income in the U.S., which was $61,372 in 2017, a hike in real terms of 1.8 percent from the 2016 median of $60,309, according to the Census Bureau. It was the third consecutive annual increase in median household income, the Bureau says.

Below are the annual numbers released by the US Census Bureau, which have not been adjusted for inflation.

The biggest gain in income in Detroit was in the $35,000 to $50,000 range, says Kurt Metzger, principal of Kurt R. Metzger & Associates and founder and director emeritus, Data Driven Detroit, (D3).

African American median household income in Detroit rose from $27,334 in 2016 (adjusted to 2017 dollars) to $29,937 in 2017, according to Metzger.

The federal poverty level in 2017 was $24,600 for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but we are seeing steady, sustained progress,” says Mayor Mike Duggan.  “The only two ways we can reduce poverty and increase income is to bring more jobs to Detroit and to train Detroiters to fill them.”

Duggan says the City’s Detroit At Work program is helping address the problem. It has trained nearly 3,000 Detroiters for in-demand jobs since January 2017 in fields like construction, health care, IT, retail and hospitality.  Today, more than 7,100 jobs and 131 training opportunities are accessible at


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