We know that, unlike most defeats, Detroit’s bankruptcy has a thousand fathers—everything from mismanaged pension funds to interest rate swaps gone the wrong way to years of racial animus that hollowed out the core of an already too-sprawling metropolis.
But the fundamental problem of late has been the city’s depleted population: More than a quarter of its residents leaving town between 2000 and 2010. That’s a function of bad city services and urban blight, but it’s also because it’s hard to make a living there. You can see that reflected in the chart above. Jobs in the Detroit metropolitan area, which held fairly steady through the nineties, plunged after 2000, as the unemployment rate rose. Between 2001 and the end of 2012, Detroit’s Wayne County lost more than 60,000 manufacturing jobs alone.