Detroit Free Press
Sept. 20, 2023
More than a third of young residents don’t see themselves in Michigan or are unsure of staying in the state 10 years from now, according to a recent survey, a figure that’s cause for concern according to business and talent attraction stakeholders. As state leaders have drawn their focus on retaining and attracting talent to boost Michigan’s declining population, keeping young Michiganders in the state will be key.
In a survey commissioned by the Detroit Regional Chamber and Business Leaders for Michigan, 64.2% of respondents, residents between 18 and 29 years old, said they saw themselves living in Michigan a decade from now. A little more than 1 in 4 respondents, 26.2%, said they didn’t see themselves remaining in the state 10 years from now and 9.3% were unsure.
“When only 64% of Michiganders under the age of 30 say they see themselves here in 10 years, we should all be concerned,” said Jeffrey Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.
Michigan leaders have targeted boosting the state’s population — in June, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the formation of the Growing Michigan Together Council, a group tasked with providing recommendations for strategies on population growth by the end of the year. Michigan’s population growth rate ranked second to last among U.S. states in the most recent census, and census data estimates show the state’s population has slightly decreased since 2020.
Among the survey’s findings:
- Those with higher education levels were more likely to indicate they don’t see themselves staying in Michigan.
- The cost of housing and overall living costs were the most prominent factors when deciding whether to stay or leave Michigan.
- Respondents in urban or suburban areas were more likely to be optimistic about their economic futures than those living in more rural areas.
- The Great Lakes and other outdoor amenities and features are the biggest factor encouraging residents to remain in Michigan.
- Respondents who identified as either Democratic or leaning Democratic were more likely to indicate they would leave Michigan than those identifying as Republicans or leaning Republican.
- Michigan’s positions on social issues, like abortion access, gun safety laws and LGBTQ+ rights were more likely to influence respondents to stay in Michigan than to leave the state.
Sandy Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said the finding that those with higher education levels are more likely to be open to leaving the state should concern those vested in Michigan’s population growth.
“In a time when we are trying to get Michigan to be younger and better educated, that is a scary, scary place to be,” Baruah said during a media call discussing the survey.
Fixing Michigan’s infrastructure, and its roads in particular, would influence more to remain in the state, the survey found. In response to an open-ended question on how to make Michigan better, nearly 10% said fixing the roads. Increasing wages and benefits, bolstering affordable housing options and making more and better jobs available were the next most prevalent responses.
Michigan won’t be able to change its usually cold winters and the state’s overall weather patterns. That could pose problems: In response to an open-ended question on the state’s biggest challenge, more than 14% answered that some form of bad weather could make them leave. Not far behind was a lack of opportunities and better jobs, at 13.5%.
The survey, conducted by The Glengariff Group, sampled 600 Michiganders from 18 to 29 years old. Survey results were gathered Aug. 14-Aug. 19, with all results being captured over cellphone. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points, with a 95% confidence level.
Richard Czuba, founder and pollster for The Glengariff Group, said polling of young people and their likelihood of remaining in Michigan isn’t something that’s been done before. He also said there wasn’t similar data from young people in other states with which to compare Michigan’s results.