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Natural Decrease: Michigan’s Efforts to Increase Population Thwarted by Decreasing Births and Increasing Deaths

by Kurt Metzger, Director

Now that the Michigan Department of Community Health has released the death numbers for 2010, Data Driven Detroit has analyzed the decade’s trend and its effect on population change in the State. Michigan has been losing population annually since 2005, according to the Census Bureau.  The 2010 – 2011 loss was the smallest of the six we have suffered, surpassed for the first time by another state – in this case, Rhode Island.

This population change is driven by two components: migration and natural increase.

While immigration continues to supply about 18,000 new residents a year to the state (18,347 in 2011), domestic outmigration – more Michiganders moving out-of-state than out-of-staters moving into Michigan – overwhelmed these gains.  The net loss is directly affected by economic conditions, with recent improvements leading to a decrease in the net outflow.

The other component of population growth is called Natural Increase, which equates to the number of births minus the number of deaths.  The annual trend for 2000 – 2010 is shown in Table 1.

Table 1.  Michigan Births, Deaths and Natural Increase, 2000 – 2010

Table 1 demonstrates the decreasing contribution that natural increase has made to the population in Michigan over the decade.  Whereas natural increase added 49,060 persons to the state’s total in 2000, only 26,659 were added in 2010.  This represents a decrease of 45.7 percent, driven by the combination of a 15.7 percent decrease in births and a 1.2 percent increase in deaths.  Michigan’s age structure in 2010 provides a clear picture as to why we can expect a continuation of these trends.  Birth rates have been decreasing nationally and Michigan ranks 8th lowest in the nation.  Our state ranking in percent of the population 45 years and over (at the upper limit of the child-bearing years) rose from 30th in 2000 to 10th in 2010!  How can we expect our births to increase when our child-bearing population is decreasing?

When we begin to dissect the state into its component counties, we find that 38 counties, concentrated in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula, experienced more deaths in 2010 than births.  The term Natural Increase has been turned on its heels to Natural Decrease.  While a number of counties experienced greater declines in their natural increase, St. Clair County experienced the biggest flip.  In 2000, the county’s 2,180 births and 1,471 deaths resulted in a net increase of 709.  By 2010, births had decreased to 1,625 and deaths had increased to 1,642.  The 2010 net was an actual loss of 17 residents in St. Clair County.

All the larger counties, as well as the City of Detroit, experienced double-digit percentage decreases in the number of residents being added through natural increase.  The lowest decreases came in Kalamazoo (-17.1%), Washtenaw (-17.5%), Kent (-20.0%), Ottawa (-21.6%), and Ingham (-23.3%) counties.  These were followed in order by:

Out-Wayne County    -43.8%

Detroit city          -40.9%

Oakland County   -52.0%

Genesee County   -52.9%

Macomb County   -54.8%

Livingston County -57.9%

While an improving economy will help stabilize our residential base, it will be critical for Michigan to begin to attract more residents in their 20s.  We lead the nation in the percentage of our 18-34 year olds who were born in their current state of residence.  This number one ranking is not something to wave in the air; it means that 18-34 year olds from elsewhere are not seeing Michigan as a destination state.  Unless we can begin to lower our rate and ranking in this important demographic, we will not be able to increase our birth numbers nor our overall population.

A detailed database that fueled this analysis is available upon request.