Michigan Needs To Grow Faster. How Can We Attract More People?

The Census Bureau gave Michigan some bad news recently, and it will cost us a congressional seat.

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan is considering a proposal to take over the QLINE.

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan is considering a proposal to take over the QLINE.

Michigan will lose a congressional district next year. That’s after new Census results showed Michigan hasn’t been growing as fast as the rest of the country.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about why the state has been lagging in population growth.

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While the state’s population has grown, it hasn’t grown enough. Since 2010, Michigan’s population has grown 2%, for a total count of 10,084,442. According to the Census Bureau, that’s the fifth-lowest population growth in the nation.

And if you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been listening to MichMash!

Three years ago Neher said of the state’s lagging population, “Consider the fact that since we lost a seat after the 2010 Census, losing a congressional seat, another one, that would not help one bit.”

To which Roth responded, “And even kind of looking close to home on a local level, the Census is a big part of our district lines and that’s something that will be coming up soon.”

This is an accurate predication that does not sit well, and shouldn’t sit well with anyone.

“We’re not gaining by births, we’re losing by out-migrants, and we’re aging. So, we’re not attracting the young, educated population we need.” –Kurt Metzger, demographer and mayor of Pleasant Ridge

But it also wasn’t a far-fetched prediction. This was not surprising to anyone who had been paying attention, including Pleasant Ridge Mayor Kurt Metzger. He’s a local demographer with 45 years of experience who worked at the Census Bureau from 1975 to 1990. Metzger was on WDET’s Detroit Today after this news dropped and said these population trends are decades-old, and only getting worse in recent years..

“So we’re not gaining by births, we’re losing by out-migrants, and we’re aging,” he says. “So, we’re not attracting the young, educated population we need.”

Metzger said Michigan has been able to make up for a lot of those losses in the past through immigration and higher birth rates. But, as he said, birth rates aren’t as high as they once were. And nationally, the trend is that people are leaving places like Michigan to move out West and to the South. A lot of that has to do with weather, cost of living and economic opportunities.

RelatedMichigan Will Lose a Congressional Seat. Here’s What That Means for Redistricting.

So how does Michigan start to attract people again?

Many advocates would argue that stonewalling public transit initiatives and continuing to starve our cities and schools of resources aren’t helping.

Metzger says one of the things that Michigan lacks is a regional approach to attracting new residents. He said Great Lakes states should be cooperating a lot more to come up with strategies to make the region more attractive.

In the near-term, remember what Roth said three years ago about those congressional district lines being redrawn soon? That process is happening now with a brand-new independent redistricting commission.

Which means it’s more important than ever that you pay attention to that process. Especially because we’re now working with 13 districts instead of 14.

More from MichMash:
Michigan Falling Behind Other States, Countries in Ending ‘Period Poverty’
Auto Industry Grapples with Parts Shortages, Toxic Politics in 2021
COVID-19 Vaccines Appear To Be Working. But Some Recent Headlines Lack Context and Cause Confusion.
Supporters Hope Infrastructure Spending Can Help Reduce Inequality in Michigan

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.