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World Series Wrap Up: A Tale of Two Cities

Oct. 29, 2012
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The Giants just swept the Tigers in four games to win the World Series title last night, to the tune of riotous, celebratory San Franciscans around the city.  The games may be over, but San Francisco and Detroit live on — what does this year’s World Series tell us about these two cities’ starkly different economies today?

Here we will look at how each city stacks up in terms of economic strength and weakness to take the impact of these games beyond athletics and to get a sense of how national attention could bring economic positives to each area.  Looking at the broader categories of employment rates, average incomes, home ownership and manufactured exports, some clear diverging trends emerge even though both cities have roughly the same population (4.3 million people, according the latest census).

Detroit v. San Francisco By the Numbers

This year’s World Series pitted the San Francisco Giants against the Detroit Tigers in competition for baseball’s highest title.  Throughout the World Series we observed examples of the potential positives – and negatives – that were seen for each city’s economy as the sheer size of these games created an influx of tourism and retail sales for each area.  Here we break down the key metrics of each city’s major economic trends: unemployment rate, household income and poverty level, homeownership rates, minority owned business statistics, and manufacturing and exports.


First, we look at unemployment rates, giving one of the clearest pictures of how each city is performing economically:

  • With 10.9% of the population in Detroit out of work, the city typically ranks as one of the most difficult places in the nation for finding employment.
  • San Francisco fares much better in this regard, with only 7% of the city without work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Similar trends are seen in median household incomes, with Detroit’s families earning an average of $42,241, nearly half of what is seen in San Francisco, where the average household makes $71,304 per year.  However, this fails to take into account the cost-of-living difference in these cities. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in, especially considering the price of housing. According to CNN, a salary of $71,304  in San Francisco is comparable to a salary of $41,064 in Detroit.

Rate of Homeownership:

Though it lost the World Series, Detroit isn’t the underdog in this category.  What might be surprising to some is the rate of homeownership, which is actually much higher in Detroit, where more than two-thirds of the population lives in a non-rented dwelling.  The 37% rate that is seen in California is due in large part to the fact that housing costs 70% less in Detroit.

 Minority Business Ownership:

  • Black-owned businesses in Detroit total 28.6% compared to SF’s 2.7%.
  • Asian owned businesses in San Francisco come in at 24% compared with Detroit’s 3.7%.


Manufacturing shipments were less surprising, however, as Detroit is still viewed as the nation’s Motor City.  Cadillac and Chrysler make up the majority of the city’s $55.9 billion in manufacturing exports while wine and food are the chief products in San Francisco’s $2.1 billion in annual exports.  Detroit would be in far worse shape were it not for the recent auto bailout.

Rooting for the Underdog

While each city can boast some amount of baseball prowess, Detroit is sadly the underdog in more ways than one.  San Francisco is experiencing a tech boom – some say a bubble – while Detroit is still fighting to rebuild its economy since the collapse.  The World Series may have brought a temporary influx of attention and money, but these cities’ economic challenges are here to stay.