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MI population predicted to decline by hundreds of thousands

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Michigan's population has hovered around the 10 million mark for the past 20+ years, but the state's latest report outlines projections of a population roller coaster which stops at the bottom.

Michigan will have more than 230,000 more people in the next decade, and then decline by 128,000 from 2034 to 2050. Overall, the state's population is expected to drop by about 700,000 in 26 years.

Jaclyn Butler, demographer at the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics and author of the report, said in addition to people migrating out of the state and lower fertility rates, increasing death rates are contributing to the decline.

"In Michigan, as we have this very large birth cohort, the 'baby boomers' birth cohort," Butler explained. "The baby boom was pronounced in Michigan -- even compared to the nation, which also experienced a baby boom -- moving into, you know, older age years, high mortality years."

The report shows there are now more Michigan residents age 55 and older than residents under 25.

Butler added COVID-19 deaths played a role in Michigan's natural population decrease, but even though 2020 and 2021 saw the highest annual increases in deaths since the Spanish flu in 1918, she emphasized the pandemic cannot solely be blamed for the decline.

"Michigan was already trending closer toward natural decrease," Butler noted. "That rate of natural increase -- where you have more births than deaths -- was already slowing, even prior to the pandemic."

The report found death rates in Michigan are projected to increase by over 35% through the year 2047.

Can this population decline be reversed? Butler believes it is possible.

"You know, there is a window of time," Butler stressed. "Within the next two years or the next decade where, particularly if total net migration is high enough, there might be enough total net migration to offset that natural decrease."

Butler also warned if the trend is not reversed, within the next decade it will become a greater challenge for Michigan to maintain the annual level of migration the state needs for its workforce.

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