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Michigan's population is (slowly) growing, but it's not all good news

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New estimates released Monday from the U.S. Census Bureau show the state’s population creeping upward—but still just shy of the ten million mark in 2019.

The good news: after being the only state to lose population from 2000-2010, Michigan will end up with a slight gain this past decade.

But that growth rate is being hampered by two larger national trends: declining birth rates, and less immigration. For the first time since 2010, Michigan lost more residents to other states than it gained over the past year—again reflecting national trends as growth rates in the U.S. South and West significantly outpace growth in the Midwest and Northeast.

“Whereas we are having more births than deaths, which is contributing to population increase, we also are having more people leaving the state, which is kind of constraining that ability for our population to increase,” said Michigan state demographer Eric Guthrie.

Kurt Metzger, a demographer and founder of Data Driven Detroit, said the confluence of these trends does not bode well for Michigan, particularly as the state heads into the 2020 census.

“I was surprised that immigration dropped as much as it did, and that domestic migration, outmigration, increased,” said Metzger, who says immigration has buffered much of Michigan’s population loss in the past. “But it does, again, really point out the fact that immigration is so critical to Michigan’s population future.”

Both Metzger and Guthrie say the population numbers are not just about statistics and bragging rights. Population determines Michigan’s political representation in Congress (the state is virtually guaranteed to lose another U.S. House seat after the next census), the amount of federal dollars the state gets for vital services, and leaves the state with an aging workforce and a dwindling number of working-age adults to support them and drive the state’s economy.

“National trends are hurting Michigan, accelerating the trends that were already hurting Michigan,” Metzger said. “It’s very hard to turn that around.”

Full Census Bureau state and national population estimates for 2019 can be found here.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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