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The Rise and Fall of Detroit Essay

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2021

Detroit is the largest city of the Michigan state in the U. S. and twenty-third most populated in the whole country. It has the thirteenth largest economy in the United States, one of the major ports, and can be called one of the main centers of the automobile industry. Yet in the twentieth century, Detroit experienced a few ups and downs, being an extraordinary case of a big industrial center. Its huge importance was followed by the total destruction, making it the biggest and most well-known city to file for bankruptcy.

After the civil war, Detroit became the fifth most populated city in the U. S. Detroit’s economic success was predetermined by its beneficial location. It was connected to other areas by railroads and had access to natural resources. By the end of the nineteenth century, Detroit was successful at shipbuilding and railway business. It was known as the Motor City, being home to the Ford Motor Company. “Ford not only transformed the economic organization of society, but he also transformed its social organization – he invested much of his profit into social welfare” (Thompson). This all led to even more people migrating to Detroit, hoping to find wealth and prosperity. A lot of black immigrants also came; however, racism was harsh at that time, so they could not find jobs or accommodations so easily.

Everything began to fall apart when the Great Depression struck in the 1920s. The car sales declined very rapidly, but the situation was redeemed when the Second World War began, and tanks were needed to be produced. After Germany losing the war, America’s economy was on the rise again.

Detroit was benefiting greatly from car sales, and at the same time, the competition grew. The racial scandals led to riots in 1967, which resulted in black people expressing big concerns over their living conditions. The black population was displeased by the very limited opportunities they had and by the violent environment. Detroit became mostly populated by black people, leading to the decrease of economic facilities and employment.

Later in the 1970s, the social problem was combined with growing competition created by the Japanese car industry and the process of de-industrialization. The urban area was in decline, with a richer population moving out of the city. The property-based taxation system was also not helping Detroit at the time, as with richer people moving out, it made the suburban areas wealthier, while the city’s economy was on the decline (“The Rise and Fall of Detroit”).

Further destruction of the city was caused by the economic crisis in 2008. “The funding situation went from precarious to disastrous, leading to the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history in 2013 and further social crisis” (“The Rise and Fall of Detroit”). However, was the fall of Detroit only the reason for internal or external issues remains questionable? Beyer argues that “Detroit’s struggles are about its inability to attract capital, business and economic growth” (Beyer).

There is also an opinion that “The tremendous paradox of Detroit is, in a city with lots and lots of vacant lands, there’s almost no land for redevelopment” (Uberti). Therefore, although the decline of Detroit can now be followed by a chain of events, its underlying problems are still numerous.

To sum up, Detroit, being one of the greatest economic centers after the civil war, has undergone a number of changes that led to its bankruptcy. The reasons for that are in the economics, social and political system of the city. What exactly has led to such a crisis was an unsuccessful combination of certain rueful events. However, being one of the greatest bankruptcy cases, this could serve as an example for the future and help avoid such a situation again.

Works Cited

Beyer, Scott. “Forbes. Web.

“The rise and fall of Detroit.” ZED Books. Web.

Thompson, Karl. “ReviseSociology. Web.

Uberti, David. “The Guardian. Web.

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