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New Report Supported by CMF Members Reveals Stagnate Population Growth in Michigan

A new five-part series report supported by several CMF members presents a data-informed vision of Michigan’s future based on current trends and trajectories across our state’s demographics, economy, workforce, infrastructure, environment and public services. 

Michigan’s Path to a Prosperous Future: Challenges and Opportunities

A new five-part series report, supported by several CMF members and the Governor's Office of Foundation Liaison, presents a data-informed vision of Michigan’s future based on current trends and trajectories across our state’s demographics, economy, workforce, infrastructure, environment and public services.

The research reveals that Michigan has been losing ground over the past five decades. It has fallen behind other states in population growth, jobs, earnings, health, educational achievement and the quality of public services at the state and local levels. This gap is projected to widen as Michigan’s population begins to decline in a generation, creating challenges in maintaining the state’s workforce, customer base, and government tax bases. 

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan and Altarum published the report, Michigan’s Path to a Prosperous Future: Challenges and Opportunities, supported by CMF members Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, The Joyce Foundation, The Skillman Foundation and the Ballmer Group.

The executive summary and the first two papers in the five-part series of research were released last week and focus on Michigan’s population, economy, workforce and talent. The series will continue with reports focused on Michigan’s health, infrastructure, environment and climate, and state and local government.

According to the report, Michigan ranks 49th in population growth since 1990, ahead of only West Virginia. Michigan’s current path will lead to a shrinking population and continuing declines in the state’s competitiveness and quality of life.

Key takeaways from the first set of research papers include:

Michigan’s Population and Demographics

  • Michigan’s population growth has lagged the nation for 50 years and this slow growth is projected to continue: Projections to 2050 show that Michigan is on a path to continue to grow more slowly than the rest of the country, and to begin to lose population in the 2040s.
  • International immigration provides a consistent inflow to Michigan’s population: The natural increase in the population (births minus deaths) is currently positive but is projected to turn negative (more deaths than births) by 2040. Domestic migration represents a net loss in population as more people are leaving for other states than are moving to Michigan, and the state is projected to lose an additional 270,000 people by 2050.   
  • Michigan’s population is older than average and getting older: By 2050, it is projected that the population of children and young adults will shrink by 6% and the working-age population will be stagnant (falling over the next decade, then recovering to just above the current level), while the population of people aged 65 and older will grow by 30%.
  • Michigan’s population is projected to become more racially and ethnically diverse: All of the projected growth in Michigan’s population is projected to come from people of color, who will represent 40% of the working-age population by 2050.

Michigan’s Economy Workforce and Talent

  • Michigan is relatively poor when compared to the average state: In 2021, the state ranked 34th among the states in both real per capita personal income and real median household income. Michigan’s economic prosperity has trended down for many decades.
  • Incomes are especially low for Black households and those that reside in larger cities around the state: The poverty rate for Black households in Michigan (26.2%) is 4.4 percentage points above the national rate.
  • Michigan’s automotive legacy is still an asset to the state: Michigan still has a very high concentration of high-wage, high-skill employment among engineers, a concentration that significantly exceeds its Midwest neighbors.
  • Michigan lags behind the nation in college degree attainment: Michigan ranked 34th nationally in the percentages of its 25-and-older population that held at least an associate degree and that held at least a bachelor’s degree.  
  • Michigan’s school-age youth are not fully prepared for college and high-paying careers: Michigan’s fourth and eighth grade students scored well below the national average on standardized proficiency tests for reading and math in 2022.

According to the report, despite the data, there is an opportunity to alter this path through cross-sector collaboration and with policies that retain young residents and attract domestic and international immigrants to Michigan.

Investment in public services and the state’s abundant natural resources can improve the lives of current residents, increase retention and draw new residents. Investments to improve the health, educational achievement and job readiness of Michiganders can increase workforce participation and attract employers to the state.

The report offers opportunities for bold and broad action through policies and investments, including:

  • Refocus on the opportunities and well-being of Michiganders, to improve health, educational achievement and job readiness.
  • Invest in the public services and natural resources that make Michigan a place where people want to live.
  • Attract new people from around the country and the world.

The three remaining papers will be released over the summer of 2023.

Want more?

Explore the executive summary and the first two papers in the five-part series.