New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than a quarter of Michigan’s 83 counties have a median age of 50 years or older.
Most of the aging populations are located in Northern Michigan. Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties had the highest median ages, with the median age for those counties being 58.5 years, 56.5 years, and 55.3 years, respectively. All three of these counties are rural, each having a population of less than 14,000.
Kurt Metzger is a demographer and the mayor of Pleasant Ridge. He says that an aging population is great for health care and retirement businesses, but a younger population is needed to drive entrepreneurship and economic growth in the state.
“It’s very difficult to support an economy when you have an aging population. Obviously, there are health care issues, and it’s probably somewhat good for health care.”
He says Michigan’s issue with that is the older population is often sparsely distributed among rural areas, and Michigan’s rural health care system is in trouble.
“When the population is as spread out and numbers are so small, it’s hard to support hospitals and medical facilities,” he says. “The young people who are born there, who are raised in these areas, see very little as far as a future, and they’re ready to leave.”
There are nine counties in Michigan whose median ages were less than the national average of 38.2. All nine of those counties were home to colleges and universities, which helps to skew the age younger. Metzger says that Michigan has been doing a better job of keeping its college graduates, but still needs to find ways to attract more young people from outside the state.
“Your largest central city is always going to be your biggest attractor. Luckily, we’ve seen this redevelopment of Detroit; a lot of what we’re hearing about Detroit is very positive. That’s going to make sure that more young people, especially those that grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and went to Michigan State or U of M, see that there are opportunities. They’re looking at Detroit now as a possibility.”
This revitalization of Detroit has included new jobs for recent graduates, Metzger says. “Technology and bringing a lot of the tech firms into Detroit has certainly helped a great deal. You want people to be thinking of Detroit when they’re also thinking about Boston and Atlanta and Dallas and San Francisco and any number of cities that have been attractive to young, educated students.”
Metzger says that more diverse populations tend to skew younger, and that Michigan could benefit from welcoming more diverse groups into its population.
“The more diverse we become, the more accepting of immigrants, the more immigrants we get, the younger it will get. It will help our population going forward. That’s why Michigan needs to promote immigration. It’s a very important piece of the puzzle in terms of Michigan’s future economic growth.”