Diversity is the Future for Michigan

The Census Bureau released its newest compilation of 2010 Census data for Michigan on March 8.  This file allows us to understand the demographics of the growing racial and ethnic groups across our State and in our neighborhoods.  While Data Driven Detroit will begin to produce a series of Detailed Race/Ethnic profiles, I decided to take a quick look at how these new numbers better help us understand how these groups differ in their age distributions.

When we look at the share that persons of color (anyone who is not white, nonHispanic) represent by age, we see a gradual increase as age decreases.  While accounting for only 14 percent of the population 65 years and over,  the figure below shows a 34 percent share in the youngest cohort, less than 5 years of age.  Overall, persons of color represent 23.4 percent of Michigan’s population.

In order to better understand the age distributions within specific race and ethnic groups, I first ranked all the groups by the percentage of their populations that were below 18 years of age (children).  Rapidly growing countries have populations that are young, with heavy concentrations of population in their child-bearing years and large numbers of children.  Among the groups where children accounted for at least a third of their populations were Guatemalans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Hmong, Bolivians, Bangladeshi, and Pakistanis.  African Americans came in at 27.9 percent and white, nonHispanics trailed all but Japanese, Taiwanese, Indonesians and Thai with 21.3 percent.

The best way to understand the gender and age structure of a country or particular race/ethnic group is to look at its population pyramid.  The pyramid represents population share for each 5 year age cohort for both genders.  Below you have two very different pyramids.  The first is for Michigan’s white, nonHispanics, while the second is for Michigan’s Mexicans.

The shape of the first is far from that of a pyramid.  Rather, it is beginning to approach the shape of a rectangle.  The bulge in the middle represents the large baby boom generation.  The bulge somewhat lower is the baby boomlet, a period when the large baby boom cohort was having children.  The bars below the 15-19 year cohort continue to get smaller as births have continued to decrease.  The population less than 10 years of age represents only 11.9 percent of the white, nonHispanic population.  The cohort 65 years and over now accounts for 13.4 percent of the total – a share that will continue to grow as 20 years of baby boomers began reaching these ranks in 2011.

The second portrays the age and gender distribution of the Mexican population.  In this case we see the true pyramid structure, with the largest population cohorts in the youngest ages, and a decreasing share with increasing age.  This is what the total population of Michigan looked like in the heart of the baby boom years in the early 1950s.

Children less than 10 years of age account for almost one of every four Mexicans in Michigan (24.3%), while those 65 years and over account for just 4.1 percent.

It is clear that Michigan is becoming more and more diverse with every day.  The Governor’s recent call to make Michigan the most immigrant-friendly state in the country will help to move the needle as well.

As the older white, nonHispanic population ages, it will be the younger, African American,  Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern and other ethnic groups that will help drive Michigan’s future.  Their presence is now and will be in the future a true asset for our State.