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Five Objective Truths for Craig Fahle

by Data Driven Detroit Staff

WDET host Craig Fahle has called on the public to provide “five objective truths” about Detroit to share with the world at the upcoming Association for Alternative Newsmedia convention. Data Driven Detroit is answering the call by drawing on our history of addressing misconceptions about the city.

1. Crime
Every year, the FBI publishes its Uniform Crime Report, and every year, major news publications like Forbes build Top Ten lists of the “most dangerous” cities in America. But those lists are frequently based on inconsistent methodologies, which is why different magazines frequently publish contradictory rankings. In October, D3 explored some of the many flaws in Forbes’ data journalism. Crime in Detroit is a serious problem, but Detroit, like any major city, has some neighborhoods that are safe and others that are unsafe.

2. Grocery Stores
Reports that Detroit has no places to buy fresh food within its city limits have been greatly exaggerated. Detroit has over 100 grocery stores, along with the one of the country’s oldest and largest continuously operating farmers’ markets. However, some food vendors in the city feature subpar offerings; reports of code violations abound, showing that Detroit’s healthy food access has a long way to go.

3. Literacy
There’s an often-repeated statistic that 47 percent of Detroiters are illiterate, but D3 found that figure originated in a flawed interpretation of a 1992 survey. It’s hard to say exactly how severe illiteracy is in Detroit today, but the most recent data indicates that in 2003, 12% of Wayne County residents lacked basic literacy skills.

4. Voter Engagement
Detroit has an estimated 50% turnout for national elections (compared to 61.6% for the nation as a whole), but voters 18-35 have the lowest turnout. (However, voter turnout figures in Detroit tend to underestimate turnout because voter rolls are not kept up-to-date — a major consideration in cities with steep population decline.) High-turnout voters tend to live near other high-turnout voters; voter turnout is positively correlated with owner occupancy and education, but negatively correlated with poverty.

5. Tax Foreclosure
Tax foreclosure is an exceptional problem in metropolitan Detroit, but the foreclosure crisis presents opportunities for resident engagement. In the best cases, foreclosure auctions are a way for underused properties to transition from delinquent and frequently neglectful owners to community members that can find new uses for the land.

Objective truths are a prerequisite to constructing productive, rather than sensational, narratives about Detroit. The best way to find objective truths is to begin with objective evidence – data! Data Driven Detroit is dedicated to providing residents and visitors with objective information about the city and region.