Michigan's shrinkage

Michigan’s Decade of Tarnish Seen in Census Report


While every other state in the nation gained population over the past decade, Michigan shrank. And yet, as word seeped across frozen towns like this one on Wednesday, almost no one seemed even mildly surprised. This was, many here said with resignation, just one last, official confirmation of Michigan’s long, grim and gloomy slide.


Cities like Detroit and Flint pondered ways to shrink their sizes to save themselves. States like Wyoming and North Dakota, flush with jobs, tried to recruit out-of-work Michigan residents to relocate. And places like this old corn and soybean growing village of 2,095 people — the self-proclaimed seed corn capital of the world — watched companies, like the soda pop top factory here this fall, close up shop.

In 2009, 2008 and 2007, United Van Lines, the moving company, had proclaimed Michigan to have its largest percentage of “outbound” moves. But experts here who had dismissed those figures as not particularly scientific had less to say about the Census Bureau numbers released this week, which showed that Michigan’s population shrank, for the first 10-year period since at least 1900. Not even Louisiana, which had weathered Hurricane Katrina, got smaller. Sure, Puerto Rico, a commonwealth, also lost population, but that seemed little solace here.


In the simplest terms, state officials say, Michigan’s .6 percent shrinkage to 9,883,640 people happened like this: A relatively low rate of people moved away, but a very low rate of people moved in from other states, or from other parts of the world.

Now some of the fallout is clear — the loss, as in so much of the industrial Midwest, of a House member and a possible drop in federal money — but there is a murkier psychic effect, which bubbled up as residents scanned The Kalamazoo Gazette’s headline here: “Michiganders Becoming Poorer and Older than Rest of U.S.”

“If I would have known 30 years ago what’s going on today, I’d be in Kentucky,” said Butch Vollmar, who pointed, by turns, to an array of causes for the state’s troubles — the shift in manufacturing, a “terrible” business climate in the state and a set of politicians he generally does not trust.

Comment: The state of my parents' birth. The state where I lived for 2 years (1978-80). A state I have vacationed in and love!

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