What's it like to live in Detroit, MI?


Nicole Jankowski

Profile written by local expert:

Nicole Jankowski

Detroit is steeped in history, culture and innovation. This Michigan metro area, which borders Canada, was settled by French explorers whose presence is still reflected in the often mispronounced street names that remain: Livernois, Gratiot and Dequindre. Nearly 200 years later, in 1908, at the corner of Piquette and Beaubien, Henry Ford would roll out his Model T for mass production. And just like that, the Motor City was born.

Detroit grew quickly into a bustling metropolis of nearly 2 million inhabitants in the years before World War II. But the loss of industry, issues with crime and economic woes, including Detroit's declaration of Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013, have contributed to a significant population decline. In 2012, just over 700,000 people remained in the city proper. By 2016 there were about 30,000 fewer people. Due to the mass exodus of city dwellers to suburban communities, there are numerous neighborhoods now characterized by vacant buildings.

Without big-box grocery stores or a dependable mass transit system, living in central Detroit is further complicated. But the local government is trying to remedy this. In 2013, Whole Foods opened a store in Detroit's midtown several years after the last major grocery store closed. Locals are hopeful that others will follow suit. The city is helping residents travel more easily with the M-1 Rail, which is a new streetcar that runs down Woodward, the city's main thoroughfare, from the suburbs. Detroit currently sits on the edge of a renaissance. Small businesses are once again setting up shop in the area, and new restaurants are luring suburbanites back to Motown.  

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Detroit, Michigan is ranked:

#92 in Best Places to Live

#67 in Best Places to Retire

6.3

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    5.3
  • Value
    7.3
  • Job Market
    6.7
  • Quality of Life
    5.9
  • Net Migration
    5.4

Read how we rank places

Detroit, MI Quick Stats

  • 4,304,613

    Metro Population

  • $52,100

    Average Annual Salary

  • 57.8° / 42.7°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 40.0

    Median Age

  • $156,508

    Median Home Price

  • 31.3 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 4.3%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $890

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 26.8 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Detroit, MI?

The demographics of Detroit are slowly changing. Millennials are increasingly choosing to live in the city center, enticed by low-cost housing and niche neighborhoods. Daily expenses, like groceries and utilities, are on par with national averages. However, given Detroit's reputation for crime, residents can expect to pay more for home and car insurance.

Value Index

Index Score: 7.3 /10

How we calculate this.


Detroit offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2016


Detroit
$156,508

USA
$213,127

Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Detroit, MI.

What's the weather like in Detroit, MI?

Summers in the Detroit metro area are often fairly temperate, although humidity can be high. Winters are snowy and cold, but there are skiing spots just north of the metro area. Fall is arguably Detroit's most beautiful time of the year, as the leaves begin to change and the tree-lined streets become a palette of gold, red and orange hues.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)

28.1°F


Winter

48.2°F


Spring

71.8°F


Summer

52.9°F


Fall

Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

2.0 in


Winter

3.1 in


Spring

3.3 in


Summer

3.4 in


Fall

Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Detroit, MI?

Public transportation options in Detroit are limited. Without a true subway system, residents rely on buses to get around the metro area. In downtown Detroit, residents can use the People Mover, an elevated tram system, to get around, as it stops at major points of interest in the area. The M-1 rail makes travel more streamlined down Woodward, the main road that bisects the city proper.

In more suburban parts of the metro area, public transportation is rarely used and nearly all residents own a private vehicle. However, given the high rate of car insurance, owning a vehicle isn't affordable for everyone.

The Detroit Metropolitan Airport connects residents to domestic and international destinations, with all the major U.S. airlines offering flights. Detroit is also serviced by Amtrak and a number of intercity bus companies.

Commuting in Detroit, MI

Means of Transportation
Driving
93%
Above national average

Bicycling
0%
Equal to national average

Walking
1%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
1%
Below national average
Average Commute Time

26.8 minutes

0.4 minutes more than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Detroit, MI?

The Detroit metro area is widely diverse. The city of Detroit itself contains many neighborhoods rich in cultural heritage. Dearborn, Michigan, a large community that is surrounded by the city of Detroit on three sides, is home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the United States. Mexicantown, a neighborhood within Detroit near the Ambassador Bridge, is home to a large Hispanic population, while Corktown has a long history of Irish heritage and offers an annual St. Patrick's Parade down Michigan Avenue. Cities such as Royal Oak and Ferndale, which sit further along Woodward in Oakland County, cater to young professionals.

Poverty is a major issue, as nearly 40 percent of the population lives in poverty. Local officials have also had difficulty enticing recent college graduates to live and work inside city limits. Only about 14 percent of Detroit city residents older than 25 have a bachelor's degree or higher, which is half the state average.

Of the roughly 45 percent of residents who claim religious affiliations, a sizable portion identify as Catholic. 

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Detroit as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Detroit, MI?

Detroit offers a host of entertainment options, particularly sports. Detroit residents are enthusiastic about rooting for the home team — whether that's the MLB Tigers, the NFL Lions or the NHL Red Wings.

Residents can spend Friday nights at the metro area's casinos, Saturday mornings at the open-air Eastern Market and afternoons at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Find out more about what there is to see and do in Detroit, MI