News Story

Moving Company Reports More Customers Leave Michigan Than Move Here

State will likely lose another seat in Congress after next census

Michigan rejoined the ranks of states experiencing high rates of out-migration in 2019, according to a new survey from United Van Lines. That fact casts doubts on whether the state’s recovery from the “lost decade” at the outset of the 21st century will be sustained.

With 57% of moves being outbound and only 43% being inbound, Michigan ranked eighth in the nation, according to the National Movers Study. Michigan had, for most of the last 10 years, avoided the distinction in being in the top 10 states for outbound moves. Topping the list of high-exodus states were New Jersey, Illinois and New York. The highest rates of in-migration were in to Idaho, Oregon and Arizona.

The United Van Lines report comes on the heels of a U.S. Census Bureau survey that found Michigan’s population grew by only 2,785 persons last year. The modest population increase makes it more likely the state will lose a seat in Congress following the 2020 census, keeping with a trend that started after the 1980 census.

Kurt Metzger, the former director of Data Driven Detroit who has been analyzing demographic data for decades, said the latest figures are both puzzling and potentially disturbing.

Michigan’s population has finally recovered from the lows following the lost decade and the recession of 2008-09, he said, but median “incomes are still lagging . . . and it has been really gradual.”

There are indications the state’s urban centers in Detroit and Grand Rapids have become attractive to younger, well-educated young people, Metzger said. And that young people, especially those with children, are returning to Michigan to be closer to family.

But those trends are offset, he said, by countervailing phenomena. In particular, older Michigan residents in the baby-boom generation are retiring and moving out of state, and younger people are having fewer children and having them later in life.

Michigan’s birth rate for women of childbearing age is now lower than it was during the Great Depression. That could be offset by immigration (and higher birth rates) from those coming to Michigan from outside the country, Metzger said, but foreign immigration numbers have also begun to slacken.

According to United Van Lines, a significant number (25%) of the out-migrants from Michigan cited retirement as the reason for their exodus. Metzger said losing retirees is understandable if they are seeking warmer climes. It isn’t necessarily negative, he said, if they are replaced by younger people seeking opportunity who will increase economic dynamism and pay taxes.

But, he said, it’s not clear right whether that is happening.

“The 2020 census will really tell the story.”