1/3 of the nation’s 24 most rapidly depopulating cities are in one state… Welcome to Michigan

It’s not something you’re likely to hear mentioned in Governor Snyder’s reelection ads, but, according to census data shared today by Bloomberg News 8 of America’s 25 most drastically shrinking cities are in Michigan. I would have expected to see Detroit and Flint make the list of our nation’s most quickly depopulating cities, along with places like Gary, Indiana and Jackson, Mississippi, but I wasn’t prepared to see Saginaw, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Taylor, Westland and Livonia there with them.


Based on these numbers alone, I’m not sure what kind of inferences we can draw concerning the health of the state. I’d like to see if cities like Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids are attracting people, and, if so, at what pace, before descending into full-on doom and gloom mode. On the surface, though, I think it’s fair to say that things don’t look good.

When a full third of America’s top 24 most rapidly depopulating cities (of 50,000 people or more) are in your state, I’d say you have a significant problem… Sure, to a great extent, these numbers can probably be attributable to auto workers of the baby boomer generation taking buy-outs from the Big 3 and moving south, but that doesn’t explain all of it, and it certainly doesn’t make it any more palatable for those of us who remain, trying to keep our street lights lit and our schools open with ever dwindling tax dollars.

Sadly, though, this was destined to happen once American corporations began offshoring manufacturing jobs in hopes of increasing shareholder profits. It was only a matter of time before entire factories started closing, sending destructive ripples through our communities. And, just as one business closing leads to another business closing, the same is true of our communities. Like drowning swimmer, Detroit is pulling down everything around it as it slips beneath the waves.

Of course, everyone will start coming back once they realize that we have all of the fresh water. Hopefully, though, we’re able to make it until then.

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  1. K2
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Michigan pays the price for having been the home of American manufacturing.

  2. Elf
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Silly me. I thought that this was only happening in Detroit.

  3. Lynne
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Yeah. I am confident that Michigan is the place to be as global warming brings drought across much of the rest of the country. Michigan can hold out until then but we have to expect that a lot of people are likely to move away between now and then. We’ll lose more US House Reps but on the other hand, it makes each individual more represented in the Senate in that we’ll still have two senators and they’ll have fewer constituents.

    I don’t worry too much about the people moving away for now although it doesn’t have the best impact on the value of my home, which according to zillow.com is still worth less than I paid for it 14 years ago. One way to lower the unemployment rate is to have people without jobs move to the places where the jobs are located. That is how Michigan’s population boomed in the 20th century.

  4. John Galt
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    We will take your water. We don’t have to live in Michigan. When you’re down to one member of congress, we will own you. There will be pipelines to Arizona and Texas.

  5. Kim
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I agree. It’s hard to draw conclusions from this. People me merely be relocating within Michigan. With that said, though, where there’s smoke there’s usually fire.

  6. Lynne
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    John Galt, perhaps. A lot depends on our water treaties with Canada and how willing we would be to go to war with them over it. No one is going to be building any water pipelines out of the region any time soon at any rate. The bottled water/beer/pop issue is another story though.

  7. Tally Ho
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Vermont must be a most awesome state because they don’t have one city on the list!!!

    Oh, wait, Vermont doesn’t have a single city with a population over 50k.

    Different states draw different municipal bounds. If Michigan had a law prohibiting any city larger than 50k from existing … we wouldn’t be on the list, either!

    And, if we lived closer to the southern border, our population might grow.

    Or, if Bloomberg put out a list of states with the natural resources to support their population…

    I don’t mean to discount our gerrymandered challenges, but I do question how you frame them.

    If every state started with the same natural resources, the same number of cities over 50k, the same … I might bite. Instead, I’d like to assess our current assets and project the future.

    When the time comes, we’ll likely have to form barricades to turn back grandmas from Arizona. Until then … we have green space, fresh water, and the most stubbornly creative of start-ups.

    Wow. Livonia is aging. I’m going to move to Vermont?

  8. alan2102
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Cheer up, Mark. Population will soon start coming back. The Chinese, who are currently buying up U.S. banks and various other assets, and real estate in now-deserted former industrial areas (a process which will greatly accelerate in coming years), will need large numbers of very-low-wage and no-benefit worker/drones in the new debt-slave industrial prisons…. er, I mean new industrial PARKS of the old rust belt.

    As I told you before, capital moved from West to East. And instead of fighting capitalism, “progressives” fought for same-sex marriage and gun control and abortions, voted for Democrats, etc. etc. All well and good, but here we are, on the verge of becoming third-world-ized and reduced to quasi-slavery. We’ll have our abortions and same-sex marriage and NO GUNS (except for the ones pointed at us), that’s for god damn sure. Plus an allowance of $25 a week to spend on candy, cigarettes and dvds at the company canteen. It’ll be a great life, believe me. Remind me to write a Daily Kos diary about how great it is in my 1.5 hours of allotted daily R&R time. (Actually, I have a plan for my personal escape — which, of course, may or may not actually work, but what the hell? Might as well give it a go.)

    Oh well. It had to happen, I guess. We had our fun, danced with the devil, all those decades. Enjoyed exorbitant privilege. Voted for Democrats and fancied ourselves as “progressive” while living in luxury, paid for by the suffering of others, worldwide.

    Payback is a bitch.


  9. Demetrius
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    In contrast, according to SEMCOG population estimates, the City of Ypsilanti added 370 residents (or about 1.9 percent) between 2010 and 2013.

    While this number is small, it is significant. After steadily losing population since the late 1980s, it shows the city’s population has stabilized, and even begun to increase slightly. And, in contrast to many other older southeast Michigan suburbs (Wyandotte, Garden City, Ferndale, Utica, Fraser …) we are practically thriving.

  10. alan2102
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Chinese investors are buying up Detroit
    Real estate buyers are snapping up dozens of properties, often sight unseen. Where else can you buy a 2-story home in the US for $39?
    By Forbes Digital Dec 10, 2013 1
    “Dongdu International Group of Shanghai bought, sight unseen, two downtown icons, the David Stott building for $4.2 million and the Detroit Free Press building for $9.4 million, both at auction this September. ”


    Good move! 4.2 million for the Stott building is dirt cheap. That will save them the 100+ million it would cost to construct a high-rise from scratch. They can rehab the thing for maybe 20 million or so, turn it into luxury executive suites for the new SE MI ruling class, imported mostly from China.

    Meet the new bosses. Same as the old… (actually, probably somewhat worse)

    At some point they’ll send out a schlub to buy — as an afterthought — Ypsilanti and suchlike, out of petty cash.

  11. Meta
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    No one has mentioned the fact that Snyder started taxing retiree pensions once taking office. I’m sure that plays a role in people leaving the state.

  12. Posted July 9, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see if cities like Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids are attracting people, and, if so, at what pace, before descending into full-on doom and gloom mode.

    Looking at 2010-2013 Census Bureau Estimates for Michigan cities over 50k people:

    * Novi +2,736 (+4.95%)
    * Kentwood +1,526 (+3.13%)
    * Royal Oak +1,710 (+2.99%)
    * Rochester Hills +1,957 (+2.76%)
    * Wyoming +1,978 (+2.74%)
    * Ann Arbor +3,079 (+2.7%)
    * Troy +1,841 (+2.27%)
    * Grand Rapids +4,243 (+2.26%)

    Another 7 cities had growth of less than 2%: Farmington Hills, Southfield, Kalamazoo, Sterling Heights, Pontiac, Warren, and St. Clair Shores. 10 cities over 50k had population losses from 2010-2013 — the ones on the list you show, plus Lansing and Battle Creek. Overall, Michigan has 25 cities over 50,000 people: those 25 cities lost an estimated total of 11,577 people from 2010-2013, though if we omit Detroit, then the other 24 cities gained a net 13,584.

    As Demetrius notes, Ypsi City gained modestly — as did every other city/village in Washtenaw County.

  13. Posted July 9, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    So, to generalize broadly, the gainers are some strong regional centers (A2, GRap, Kzoo), some newer suburbs that still have empty space to fill (Novi, Troy, Farmington Hills, Rochester Hills, Sterling Heights, Kentwood), and some older, just-post-war suburbs that are trying to redevelop — fill in parking lots, build up, etc. (Southfield, Wyoming, Royal Oak, St. Clair Shores.)

    Pontiac and Warren are interesting as more industrial cities that seem to have flattened out their population losses and managed some very small population gain.

    The population losers are largely the industrial centers that are still adjusting to 30 years of job losses, plus the older suburbs that don’t have room to grow outwards and haven’t done as much redeveloping inwards/upwards, like Livonia and Westland.

    Part of this is aging households: From 2000 to 2010, Livonia lost 1000 households with children, and gained 1000 households with residents over 65; their median resident age went from 40 to 44.

    Ypsi has seen the same trend: smaller, older households over time. Some of the newest Mich Ave lofts probably play into our post-2010 population uptick, but I’d guess most of that is actually from getting Hamilton Crossing renovated and lived in again.

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