Altarum and Citizens Research Council of Michigan Publish “Michigan’s Path to a Prosperous Future: Challenges and Opportunities” Report

May 16, 2023

During a virtual statewide discussion today, Altarum and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan released the first two papers in a five-part series entitled Michigan’s Path to a Prosperous Future: Challenges and Opportunities.

The Research Council and Altarum joined forces to release a realistic, data-informed vision of Michigan’s future based on current trends and trajectories across multiple dimensions: demographic, economic, workforce, infrastructure, environment, and public services.

Today’s release focused on 1) Population and Demographics and 2) Economy, Workforce and Talent, and can be found on the Citizens Research Council of Michigan website.  The three remaining papers will be released over the course of the summer. 

The research shows that Michigan has been losing ground over the past five decades. Michigan 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. Too few interstate immigrants target Michigan as a destination, international immigration has fallen, and too many young Michigan residents are leaving.

Absent policy changes and investments, data show that Michigan’s current path will lead to a shrinking population and continuing declines in the state’s competitiveness and quality of life.

The research shows that, despite these sobering statistics, there is real opportunity to alter this path with policies that retain young residents and attract domestic and international immigrants to Michigan. Today’s state and local political, business, community, and foundation leaders can restore Michigan’s economic engine and destination status through sustained and coordinated investments in the state and its people.

“As today’s research shows, to grow Michigan’s economy at a faster pace, there must be job opportunities and Michigan must be an attractive market to keep young residents from moving away and to attract people to the state,” said Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council.

The series was funded by 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. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, The Joyce Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, and the Ballmer Group.

Highlights from the first paper includes:

  • Michigan’s population growth has lagged the nation for 50 years. From 2000 to 2020, Michigan grew slower than all but one state and is on a path to continue to grow slower than the rest of the country.
  • More people are leaving for other states than are moving to Michigan. Michigan is projected to lose an additional 270,000 people on net to other states 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 percent, the working-age population will stagnate, and the population aged 65 and older will grow by 30 percent.
  • Michigan’s population is projected to become more racially and ethnically diverse. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other groups are growing while the non-Hispanic white population is declining. By 2050, 40 percent of the working-age population will be people of color. 

Altarum's Ani Turner added, “Michigan’s population and demographic challenges are significant but not unsurmountable.”  Turner specifically outlined three broad and overlapping goals to address the challenges:

  1. Retain Michigan’s current population, especially the state’s young people
  2. Attract new people from around the country and the world
  3. Invest in the skills, opportunities, and well-being of Michiganders

Michigan’s economy, workforce, and talent contributed to stagnant growth and felt the effects of it. Michigan’s tie to the manufacturing sector and the severe consequences of past recessions have hindered growth. Highlights from the second paper includes:

  • Michigan is relatively poor when compared to the average state. In 2021, the state ranked 34th in real per capita personal income and real median household income.
  • Incomes are meager for Black households and those that reside in principal cities around the state. The poverty rate for Black households in Michigan is 4.4 percentage points above the national rate.
  • Michigan lags 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 and ranked behind most of its Midwest neighbors.
  • Michigan’s school-age youth are not fully prepared for college and high-paying careers. Michigan’s 4th-grade and 8th-grade students scored well below the national average on standardized proficiency tests for reading and math in 2022. Most Michigan high school graduates are not meeting college readiness proficiency standards; those results vary dramatically by race and geography.
  • Michigan’s automotive legacy is still an asset to the state. Michigan has a very high concentration of high-wage, high-skill employment among engineers, significantly exceeding its Midwest neighbors. The state continues to be a leader among Midwest states in new business development and entrepreneurship, a critical element of new job creation.

Lupher outlined additional public policy initiatives that could change this trajectory, including:

  1. Designing economic development efforts focused on the state’s anchor cities, restoring business development and employment opportunities in high-wage industries within these core cities.
  2. Creating high-wage jobs supporting an adequate standard of living for Michigan families. Implementing public policies to encourage and empower all entrepreneurial efforts, especially for females and minorities.
  3. Recognizing new economic realities by designing maximum college degree attainment, higher education funding and financial aid availability around these new realities.
  4. A focus on retaining new college graduates by fostering attractive job opportunities and creating places around the state where young professionals want to live and work.

Altarum, Citizens Research Council and Bridge Michigan hosted the event, moderated by Bridge. It included a panel discussion which took questions from the public. Guest panelists were Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest, Frank Ettawageshik, executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan, Gabe Rodriguez-Garriga, vice president for strategy at Business Leaders for Michigan, Jalonne L. White-Newsome, senior director for environmental justice for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Susan Corbin, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

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