Detroit plans to fight census count after 10.5 percent population drop

Detroit went all out in 2020 to count its population - which city leaders worked to grow over the last decade.

"It was a war effort to set up their whole outreach program to get the word out, go door-to-door and everything was wiped out by the pandemic," said Kurt Metzger.

And the numbers show it. Despite the city's best efforts, demographer Kurt Metzger, who is part of Detroit's census-wide committee, says the count was much lower than expected, with a 10.5 percent drop since 2010.

Metzger broke down the racial composition and believes the city was undercounted, since every ethnic group went up in population, except African-Americans.

"And they dropped by 93,000," he said. "We think, and our best guess is, they lived in neighborhoods hardest to count, and the census was done online, where people don't have internet access."

The census bureau usually follows up knocking on doors of people who did not fill out the form, but the count was cut short. Metzger says it left many neighborhoods undercounted.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan tweeted the same on Thursday, pointing to the census data, which claims Detroit only had 254,000 occupied households. Yet,  DTE Energy reports 280,000 residential homes are currently paying electric bills.

That would mean 25,000 households at least, that were not counted.

Mayor Duggan says the city "will be pursuing legal remedies to get Detroit an accurate count."

"If you are going to challenge the census, start working neighborhood-by-neighborhood, get the DTE info at the neighborhood level," Metzger said. "(Count) how many DTE hookups there is and compare it to how many households in the census."

Although during a press conference the census bureau claimed the data was reliable and it is too soon to speculate on undercounting, the damage to Detroit could be significant when it comes to re-districting and federal funding.

"Obviously the dollars will be going down as well as the political representation," Metzger said.