Haulin’ it out of Michigan

The moving industry’s numbers have been corroborated by the Census Bureau, which estimates that Michigan lost 278,000 persons to domestic out-migration[1] between 2006 and 2009.  And our own Data Driven Detroit (D3) analysis of IRS migration data revealed that every state in the country gained Michigan residents between 2007 and 2008 (latest data available).  Florida (4,806), Texas (3,522), Arizona (2,933) and California (2,782) stole the biggest share of our residents.

Not everyone left Michigan, but many left the six-county Detroit metropolitan area. In the most recent year available, 2007-08, the area lost over 62,000 residents to outmigration.  Wayne County far outdistanced the others, losing 45,140, while Oakland (-9,428), Macomb (-3,302), St. Clair (-1,707), Lapeer (-1,330) and Livingston (-1,253) also joined in.

While D3 has raised questions as to the current population of Detroit,[2] there is no question that the population has decreased since 2000 as residents have moved to nearby suburbs or left the area entirely.  We must wait for the 2010 Census to inform us in 2011 when the data are released.

While we may not know the numbers, we can get a picture of the depth of population loss by looking at U-Haul rental rates.  The data are clear:  It costs more to rent a truck in Detroit to go just about anywhere, than it does to travel in the opposite direction. 

I did some research and found the following rates for a 17” truck on a one-way trip starting on February 15, 2010.

1.  Detroit to Charlotte, NC $1,048  Charlotte to Detroit  $341

2.  Detroit to Austin, TX    $1,786               Austin to Detroit    $835

3.  Detroit to Los Angeles, CA    $2,351    Los Angeles to Detroit    $1,942

4.  Detroit to Chicago, IL    $363                   Chicago to Detroit    $313

5.  Detroit to Orlando, FL    $1,445              Orlando to Detroit    $714

6.  Detroit to Philadelphia, PA    $850       Philadelphia to Detroit    $531

While the differentials may vary, the trip from Detroit is consistently higher.  One would think that this would encourage people across the country to come to Detroit via U-Haul just for the cost savings and the low cost housing.

Understand that it is not a “Detroit thing,” because a rental from Troy, or even Ann Arbor, comes up essentially the same.  It is not a “winter thing” either, because scheduling a move for the summer will show no difference.

The only explanation I can come up with is one of supply and demand.  The high levels of out movers has driven up the demand for U-Haul trucks locally and reduced the supply.  The numbers of in-movers are not enough to replenish the supply and the rates respond accordingly.

The moral of the story? We will know that Michigan and Detroit are on their way back when the U-Haul rate differentials start to shrink.  If it ever costs you more to go from Austin or Charlotte to Detroit, than the reverse, we will know that our recovery is at hand!

[1] Domestic (internal) migration is the movement of people within national boundaries.

[2] The Census Bureau has released two separate numbers for Detroit’s 2008 population: a Census estimate of 912,000 and an American Community Survey count of 777,493.