How COVID-19 is Impacting Detroit Residents

June 10, 2020

ANN ARBOR – The Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS) is a University of Michigan initiative that regularly surveys a representative group of Detroit residents about their communities, asking about their experiences, perceptions, priorities, and aspirations.

When COVID-19 began spreading across Detroit, the DMACS project leads adjusted the strategy to begin studying the impact of the pandemic on Detroit residents. In this episode of Michigan Minds, Jeffrey Morenoff, Director of the Institute for Social Research Population Studies Center, explains the goals of DMACS and shares recent findings from the surveys on how Detroiters are experiencing the pandemic.

“The goal is to learn about people in Detroit—their socioeconomic circumstances, their health and well-being, and ways in which they feel attached to their communities,” Morenoff says. “When the pandemic hit, we were already planning to do another survey and we thought at that point we should pivot and start asking questions that were pertinent to COVID-19.”

They developed an updated survey, and have been issuing new surveys monthly ever since, with the goal of examining Detroit residents’ health and well-being and the socioeconomic circumstances people are currently facing.

“It is well documented in our findings that the economic fallout of the pandemic is hitting disproportionately people who are most vulnerable. The unemployment rate in Detroit increased more than fourfold since the start of the pandemic. The amount of job loss in Detroit has been staggering,” Morenoff says.

Morenoff and his team are studying the consequences of the economic disruptions, such as the ability to put food on the table and purchase household supplies. He says that many Detroit residents report they are spending more money during the pandemic, and that they are worried about running out of money in the next few months.

The survey respondents are also worried about more than money, though, including not being able to interact with their neighbors and larger communities.

“One thing that jumped out at us is that the inability to interact with other people during the pandemic was one of the biggest concerns that people reported, even above concerns about having a place to live, having adequate health care, getting medication, and having transportation,” Morenoff says.

The health consequences are, of course, serious as well. Over a third of Detroiters have somebody in their life who has already died from the pandemic. Even when respondents said they didn’t feel that they were likely to get the virus, they were very aware of the broader consequences of the health risks for their community.

The first two surveys conducted already showed a slight drop in the number of depressive symptoms people are experiencing and a slight decline in the number of people who fear they’re going to run out of money in the next three months. Morenoff adds that they will continue to monitor responses to see whether the situation improves, and to share findings with government officials and local stakeholders to inform evidence-based decisions about policies and investments to help the Detroit community.

Learn more in this episode of the Michigan Minds podcast.

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