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December 2009

Michigan Population Stats: We would have lost more, but there was nowhere to run


The Census Bureau released new population estimates this morning. Here is my analysis of what it means for Michigan.

  • Michigan loses population between 2008 and 2009 for 4th straight year – second largest amount (32,759) since 2007-08 (48,361)

  • Michigan’s loss was greatest of all states.  Only Maine and Rhode island also lost population.

  • Michigan falls below 10 million for first time since 2001, but remains just above the 2000 census total.

  • Michigan’s share of the nation’s population has dropped from 3.5% to 3.2% over the decade

  • Births in Michigan are at their lowest number since the beginning of the baby boom in 1946.

  • Deaths have remained high throughout the decade and will increase over time due to the aging population.

  • The birth-death combination has resulted in a continued decrease in population growth.

  • Immigration estimates stayed relatively low, due to reduced U.S. immigration.  The overall reduction is a result of increasing restrictions since 2001, but even more so in recent years, the poor economy and prospect of fewer jobs.

  • Domestic out-migration (87,339) was second highest of the decade (second only to 2007-08’s 103,637).  The out-migration this year could have been the highest in the decade but for the crash of the housing market and increasing unemployment in the rest of the country, making job moves less available.

  • Michigan’s domestic out-migration (2008-09) total ranked third behind California and New York.  23 states experienced domestic out-migration.

  • 28 states experienced domestic in-migration (2008-09), with Texas (143,423) leading all others – followed by North Carolina (59,108), Washington State (38,201), Colorado (35,591), and South Carolina (31,480).

  • 9 states, led by Michigan, Ohio, New York, Illinois and Mississippi experienced Net Out-migration.  Michigan’s loss of 71,893 residents far outnumbered Ohio’s 24,443.

  • Michigan ranked 43rd in Birth Rate for 2008-09.  Number 1 was Utah (no surprise – consistent #1), while Vermont came in last.

  • Michigan ranked 22nd in its Death Rate for 2008-09.  Number 1 was West Virginia, while Alaska had the lowest death rate.

  • Michigan ranked 28th in its Immigration Rate for 2008-09.  Number 1 was Florida, while West Virginia came in last place.

  • Michigan was at the bottom of the list for Domestic Migration between 2008 and 2009, followed by Rhode Island and New York.  Wyoming, the District of Columbia and Colorado ranked 1 through 3.

Tough Job Market is Tougher on Those with “Black” Names

As the recession grows deeper and competition for jobs grows fiercer, the black community is being disproportionately passed over for jobs. Recently, the New York Times carried a story about how African Americans are “whitewashing” their resumes to avoid job discrimination. Many are using initials to disguise “black-sounding” names.

Experts have long known that blacks face deep discrimination in the job application process. In a 2006 study, Devah Pager, a sociologist at Princeton University, had students with fictitious resumes apply for work with 350 employers, for mainly low-wage, entry-level jobs. A key part of the study was to discover how employers would respond to white applicants who had conviction records, including drug busts, and black applicants who had no criminal background. The findings: White ex-cons were called back for interviews 17% of the time compared to 14% for crime-free black applicants.

Moreover, a white-sounding name on an application is worth as much as an extra eight years of work experience, according to Marianne Bertrand, an economist at the University of Chicago. In 2003, researchers at the UC Graduate School of Business and Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent out 5,000 fake resumes in response to random help-wanted ads in The Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune. The study entitled Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” showed job seekers with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to get called for interviews. In other words, blacks have to mail 15 resumes for every 10 resumes sent by whites in order to land one interview.

It may seem to be a paradox that Americans elected an African American president with a name like Barack Obama, but at the same time, balk at hiring a highly-trained employee with a “black-sounding” name. Jabbar Sykes is a 37-year-old mathematician who graduated from the prestigious, historically black Morehouse College. As he looks for a job in information technology, he told the New York Times that he’s not taking any chances.

For the purposes of his resume, he’s now “Barry J. Sykes.”

Project Namesake: Americans wear names like fashion

For decades, certain traditional American names like John or Ann were so widely used, they became “common names.” Today, we still think of those names as common names, but it isn’t necessarily because they are commonly used. In fact, common names are losing the popularity contest.

Researchers Todd Gureckis, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University, and Robert Goldstone, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University-Bloomington, analyzed127 years of data from the Social Security Administration.  They found that between 1880 and1905, common names tended to fluctuate in popularity from one year to the next, going up one year, then down. But between 1981 and 2006, names tended to be like fashion: they become wildly popular, only to be abandoned for more trendy names years later. 

“Parents in the United States are increasingly sensitive to the change in frequency of a name in recent time,” the authors noted. “Names that are gaining in popularity are seen as more desirable than those that have fallen in popularity in the recent past.” 

The trends are so strong that you can often tell someone’s age by their names. If your name is Ashley or Brittany, it’s likely you were born in 1990. If your name is Emma or Isabella, you are probably about a year old.

The table below compares the fashionable names in 1990 to those in 2008. You’ll see how girls’ names seem to be more susceptible to trends. Half of the male names have maintained their Top 10 ranking between 1990 and 2008, while only one female name has done so.

The most common baby names of the 21st century, Emily and Jacob, account for just over one percent of girls and boys named since 2000. In 1955 about one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls were given one of the 10 most common names of the century. Today, fewer than 10% of boys and girls are given one of the 10 most common names.

Interestingly, some of America’s most successful people tend to have common names. The names John, Robert and James are more prevalent among the 972 male CEOs on the 2009 Fortune 1,000 list than they are among the boys who were born between 1940 and 1960 (when most current CEOs were born), according to USA Today. The names Richard, Paul and Edward are also more statistically prevalent among CEOs than among the general population.

My name, Kurt, has not made the top 100 popular boys’ names at any time in the past 60 years (the closest it got was 109 in 1964).  Still, I have always liked the name Kurt because, while unique enough to usually be the only one in the class, it was never a target for teasing (except when some smart aleck told me to “curtsy Kurtsy”).  It’s a strong name, hard to mispronounce, and looks respectable on a business card. Plus, it puts me in some lofty company: actor Kurt Russell, author Kurt Vonnegut and rocker Kurt Cobain.

What about your name?  What has it meant to you?

To check out the popularity of your name over the past 100 years, go to