Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The good news is that unlike other areas of the world that are struggling to reverse a development decline, there are millions of people who would love a chance to move to Detroit: immigrants. Rather than focus on the sisyphean task of convincing people who currently don’t want to move to Detroit, we should focus on how to allow in those who do. This is a far easier task for the government, even if it too requires significant policy change. What’s more, letting people from around the world move to where they want also happens to be the closest thing to a free market plan that could actually make a big difference.
Many will think this is a radical experiment in “foreignizing” a city, but this is not the case. Detroit will not become Beijing or some radical experiment of a wholly foreign U.S. city. In fact it can help make Detroit more similar to successful U.S. cities. Right now, the population of New York City is 36.8% foreign born. In comparison, Detroit is only 5.1%. foreign born. This means Detroit would have to let in around 360,000 immigrants just to reach the percent foreign born of New York City. However many immigrants they let in, it’s not likely to approach this. But even if it did, it would not be unprecedented by U.S. city standards. More modestly, increasing the foreign born population to 20% would fall far short of New York City standards, but would still mean 133,000 new immigrants. This would go a long way towards sopping up the 99,000 vacant homes that are plaguing the city.