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2020 Census: Michigan Diversifies as Size of White Majority Shrinks

Detroit Free Press
Aug. 13, 2021
Paul Egan, Nushrat Rahman, Christine MacDonald

LANSING – Michigan has grown modestly and become more racially diverse since the last census, with the size of the state’s white majority shrinking by four percentage points, according to 2020 census data released Thursday.

Michigan’s population increased by 2% since 2010, to nearly 10.1 million. But that growth, which was dwarfed by population spurts in many western and southern states, was concentrated in just a few counties, mostly in western Michigan.

White residents made up 72.4% of Michigan’s population in 2020, down from 76.6% in 2010, the data shows.

“Michigan, much like the nation, is more diverse than ever,” said Kerry Ebersole Singh, who led Michigan’s census campaign.

Growing in numbers over the last 10 years were the state’s Hispanic and Latino populations, which now make up 5.6% of the population, up from 4.4%, and Michigan’s Asian population, which grew to 3.3% from 2.4%.

“Asian Americans are beginning to see each other,” said Jasmine Rivera, director of communications for Rising Voices, a nonprofit seeking to increase civic participation among Asian Americans in Michigan.

“There’s definitely a sense of empowerment that comes from that visibility.”

The proportion of the state’s population identifying as Black mostly held steady. It was 14% in 2010 and is 13.5% today.

Notably, the census rejected a request by Arab American groups to have a 2020 category of Middle Eastern or North African. Arabs, who comprise significant numbers in Dearborn and other parts of metro Detroit, are officially classified as “white” by the U.S. government.

Also, those identifying with two or more racial groupings more than doubled, to 4.4% in 2020 from 1.9% in 2010. In just over half of Michigan’s 83 counties, those identifying as multi-race now make up the second-largest racial or ethnic group.

As the population of Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, continued to shrink, the state saw growth elsewhere.

Michigan’s five fastest-growing counties since the last census were:

  • Ottawa County in western Michigan, up 12% to 296,200
  • Grand Traverse County, in the northern Lower Peninsula, up 9.5% to 95,238
  • Kent County, in western Michigan, up 9% to 657,974
  • Allegan County in western Michigan, up 8% to 120,502
  • Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor is the county seat, up 8% to 372,258.

Michigan’s most racially diverse counties are Wayne, Ingham, Chippewa, Washtenaw, and Saginaw counties, according to a “diversity index” calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Chippewa County is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, not generally known for its racial diversity. But it qualified as one of the state’s most diverse based on its 15% of residents who identified as American Indian, 8% identifying as multiracial, and 7% identifying as Black.

Macomb County was not listed among Michigan’s most diverse. But for Monique Owens, who in 2019 became the first Black mayor of Eastpointe, Macomb is the “new melting pot.”

Though still mostly white, minority populations have been growing in cities such as Warren and Sterling Heights. The county’s Black, non-Hispanic population grew to 12% in 2020, up from 8.6% a decade earlier.

“If there is more diversity and inclusion in leadership, no matter where you are, people will feel more comfortable by moving into those communities because they have representation,” Owens said

Michigan has fewer children than it did 10 years ago and the lowest percentage of residents younger than 18 of any Great Lakes state, the data shows. Just 21.5% of Michigan residents were under 18 in 2020, down from 23.7% in 2010.

Four of the top five counties with the biggest percentage declines over the last decade were in the Upper Peninsula, along with Isabella County, the home of Central Michigan University, which saw its population dip by 8.4% to 64,394.

In metro Detroit, Macomb County grew by 5% to 881,217; Oakland grew by 6% to 1.27 million and Wayne dropped by 1.5% to 1.8 million.

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