Why Michigan needs newcomers. Told in 5 data maps.

How does Michigan stack up in college degrees?

Michigan is in the bottom third of states in college degree attainment, with 28.3 percent of residents aged 25 or older holding at least a bachelor’s degree. That comparatively low college attainment level hobbles the state’s ability to attract businesses like the second headquarters of Amazon, and hurts both the income potential of families and the tax revenue of the state (which then can invest in things like better roads and schools). Why has Michigan fallen behind? It’s probably not the reasons you think. Consider the next map.

Native Michiganders are average in degree attainment

The college-degree rate for Michigan adults born in the state isn’t exactly eye-popping, but it is average for the nation. With a quarter of native Michiganders holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the Wolverine State ranks 25th. So why is our overall rank lower? Check the next map.

Movers are better educated than natives

People who move to Michigan tend to be more educated than native-born Michiganders. That’s typical in the U.S. – people with more education typically have more job opportunities allowing them to move from state to state. In Michigan, 34 percent of adults who were born in other states have a degree. That’s a lower rate than most states – we rank 31st in college attainment of people born in other states. It’s a better rate than our native-born rate, but not nearly as good as the group of Michiganders in our next map.

Michigan immigrants are state’s most educated group

Those neighbors from India and Syria and China? They probably are more likely to have a four-year college degree. Four-in-10 adult immigrants who’ve settled in Michigan have a Bachelor’s degree or higher – the ninth-best rate in the country. So if our native Michiganders are average in college attainment and our non-natives are more educated than our natives, why do is our overall rank so low? This next chart explains.

Not many want to move to ‘Pure Michigan’

Michigan ranks 49th in the percentage of adults who were born elsewhere, either in another state or another country. That’s a problem, because people who move across state (or international) borders are typically more educated than native residents. So while Michigan’s first-generation residents are more likely to have degrees, there aren’t enough of them. Conclusion: Michigan’s college-attainment struggle isn’t just about getting more high school grads into college; it’s about getting more people from other states and countries to move here.

The numbers are clear: Michigan’s economy would improve if more adults had college degrees.

People with college degrees make, on average, about a million dollars more in their lifetimes than those with just a high school diploma. Those extra dollars are spent in restaurants and stores, creating more jobs. People who make more money pay more taxes, giving state government more cash for roads and schools.

That’s not to say everyone must, or should, go to college, not in a state that has openings in skilled trades and where some still can earn a steady income with training after high school. But that doesn’t change the numbers showing that, broadly speaking, college-educated adults earn more.

The simple answer would seem to be getting more high school grads onto college campuses. But an analysis of 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates another, less talked-about solution: convincing more adults from other states and countries to move to Michigan.

Let’s start with where Michigan adults stand in college attainment compared with residents of other states.

How does Michigan stack up in college degrees?

Michigan is in the bottom third of states in college degree attainment, with 28.3 percent of all residents aged 25 or older holding at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with a national average of 31.3 percent. That comparatively low college attainment level hobbles the state’s ability to attract businesses, like the second headquarters of Amazon, and the earning potential of families.

Here’s how that plays out: In Minnesota, nearly 35 percent of adults hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher. While Michigan’s median household income was $5,000 below the national average of $57,627 in 2016, Minnesota’s was nearly $8,000 higher.

If Michigan had the same college grad rate as Minnesota, the state would have 439,000 more adults with a degree than it does now.

Why has Michigan fallen behind? Among the reasons, there’s one you probably didn’t come up with. Consider this map:

Native Michiganders are average in degree attainment

The percentage of adults born in Michigan with a Bachelor’s degree or higher isn’t exactly eye-popping, but it is at least average for the nation. With a quarter of native Michiganders holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the Wolverine State ranks 25th.

If Michigan is doing at least an average job of getting diplomas into the hands of its native-born, why is the state’s overall rank in the bottom third of all states? Look at this map:

Movers are better educated than natives

People who move to Michigan from other states tend to be more educated than native-born Michiganders. That’s typical in the U.S. – people with more education generally have more job opportunities allowing them to move from state to state. In Michigan, 34 percent of adults who were born in other states have a degree. That’s a lower rate than most states – we rank 31st in college attainment of people born in other states. But it’s a better rate than our native-born residents. There is, however, a third group that has an even higher rate of college attainment, as shown in this next map:

Michigan immigrants are state’s most educated group

Those neighbors from India and Syria and China? They are even more likely to be college educated. Four-in-10 adult immigrants who’ve settled in Michigan have a bachelor’s degree or higher – the ninth-best rate in the country. So if our native Michiganders are average in college attainment and our non-natives are more educated than our natives, why is our overall rank so low? This next chart explains.

Rank State % born
elsewhere
1 Nevada 89.5
2 Florida 77.7
3 Arizona 76.5
4 Alaska 73.1
5 Colorado 69.6
6 New Hampshire 66.8
7 Wyoming 65.8
8 Delaware 64.9
9 Oregon 64.8
10 Washington 64.1
49 Michigan 28

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Michigan ranks 49th in the percentage of adults who were born elsewhere, either in another state or another country. That’s a problem for our economy, because people who move across state (or international) borders are typically more educated than native residents. So while Michigan’s first-generation residents are more likely to have degrees than people born here, there just aren’t enough of them, compared with the flow of people moving into other states.

Since the 1990s, Michigan has continued to lose residents to other states; more than 800,000 more people have left the state than come to it since 2000. And since movers between states are more likely to have a college degree, their absence can hurt, said demographer William Frey, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social research who has studied migration. “(Michigan is) in a part of the country that’s typically not growing much from migration,” Frey said.

Consider Georgia and North Carolina: both have a native population with lower degree rates than Michigan (22.2 and 21.2 percent, respectively, compared to Michigan’s 25.2 percent). But the overall college attainment rate of each state is higher (30.5 and 30.4 percent, compared to 28.3 percent for Michigan). Why? More than half the residents of Georgia and North Carolina were born elsewhere –  and 40 percent of them arrived with college degrees.

The bad news for Michigan: Migration away from snow belt states  looks to be picking up to places like North Carolina – which would lead more people piling in a moving van out of the state.

Kurt Metzger, current mayor of Pleasant Ridge in Oakland County and former data guru at Data Driven Detroit, was blunt in his assessment of the data: “We don’t need to encourage kids to go to college,” Metzger said. “Those who should will go.  We need others to go to community college and pursue technical training or vocational programs.

“Our efforts should be geared toward keeping our best graduates - particularly U-M, MSU, LTU and Michigan Tech, and encouraging college graduates (from elsewhere) to move here.”

Michigan has the lowest percentage in the nation of non-home-grown residents between the ages of 25-34, and second-lowest between the ages of 35-44. “What does this say about our ability to attract (new residents)?” Metzger asked.

What would draw more college grads to Michigan? Metzger makes a few recommendations:

  • The importance of vibrant cities. “We are now at a point in time where we have two strong urban centers that are proving themselves attractive to young graduates ‒ Grand Rapids and Detroit,” Metzger said. “Their continued strength, built around their interests, is important for attraction and retention. Efforts must be made to build momentum in other urban cores in Lansing, Kalamazoo (and) Bay City,” for example.
  • More high-paying jobs. “The evolution of automotive and technology industries in Michigan is critical to keeping and attracting engineers, programmers, etc.” Metzger said.
  • Internships. Metzger suggests universities and employers  collaborate to create more internship opportunities for home-grown college grads and to attract others from outside the state’s borders. “Quicken (Loans, based in Detroit) and others have shown success with summer programs, but we need much more across the state,” Metzger said. “Working with an employer while in school will increase the possibility of that student staying after graduation."
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Comments

Ren Farley
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 9:01am

This is an excellent essay focusing upon a key issues. Michigan's economy would grow more rapidly if the state had a much higher college graduation rate and if we attracted many
more highly educated persons from the US and abroad. Let's hope this issue is
appropriately discussed in the governor's race next year. Alas, Governor Granholm
tried to get support for a program that would help to get Michigan high school graduates one year of post-secondary education. She was not successful. Have times changed?
The proposed tax legislation now being discussed in Congress would seem to discourage college enrollment and post-graduate studies. That is not good for the state since
Michigan, Wayne and MSU attract quite a few out-state graduate student.
Thanks for the essay.

Bob Dunn
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:28am

Neither one of our children would return to Michigan; One has a law degree and the another a medical degree. Both tell me they would not return to Michigan because of the politics of the state. They are both going to be in the state of New York by June.

Bob

EM
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 11:34am

My family’s experience as well. One cousin said he’d love to return, loves the State environment, climate and what Detroit could be. Refered to the state government being run as if rural Mississippi and wouldn’t return because of it. I understand his point.

BloggerDave
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:07am

It is often hard to attend college when you need to have and maintain a car to get around and try to find somewhere affordable to live near campus.

Glenn
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:09am

Good article. Do you know the college attainment level of the people who left the state? Assuming the influx to states are people with higher attainment levels, it seems logical that those leaving would be the most educated as well.

Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 5:13pm

Glenn: That's harder data to find but it's there. All inter-state movers, whether from Michigan or Nevada, have higher degree rates. The most recent state-level data comes from 2012 and I'll post a more detailed answer after I look at it again.

 

Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 5:37pm

From 2007-2011, it looks like 37.8 percent of the outbound population had a college degree. And remember, Michigan had one of the highest out-migration losses of any state. Now, those could be people who were natives, got a degree and left, or non-natives who had a degree, came to Michigan and left. Still, it was a loss.

For comparison, in Minnesota, the rate was slightly lower, 37.2 percent and it was appreciably lower in Ohio, at 34.8 percent. Good question.

 

Rich
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:42pm

Michigan could keep more home grown talent if they reviewed their professional registration exams. If a person has studied at, passed courses at, and graduated from an approved school (American Bar Association, National Council of Professional Engineers, American Medical Association, etc.) then why does that person have to reprove their competence in a 2 or 3 day exam regurgitating all that they previously learned over a 3 or 4 year period. The powers that be say it is to protect the public, but more often than not it is to limit the number of people practicing a profession in the state. Healthy employment opportunities mean that a person can expect upward mobility, and not be constrained by a 75 or 80 year old professional holding a position and blocking the upward mobility. Often the new graduate will have more knowledge than the oldster, lacking only the experience. Do not constrain our bright young minds by the passing of a very subjective exam.

Margaret Petersen
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 8:49pm

That said, lawyers in Michigan do NOT have any continuing legal education requirement. As a Michigan licensed attorney (who has always taken CLE courses even though not required by the state), I find that shameful. Do not assume that new lawyer graduates have more knowledge than the oldster lawyer, but also do not assume that seasoned attorneys couldn't learn a thing or two in taking CLE courses.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:03pm

Hmmmm, let's see here student debt, student debt, student debt, student debt?

Nope.

No mention of student debt anywhere in this article.

Exactly what good would "earning more" accomplish ( providing that your college degree is in something that actually pays more...another fact missing), when most people with a degree are stuck on a college debt treadmill that they most likely won't be able to pay off in their lifetime?

Mike Wilkinson
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 5:15pm

Kevin: Not sure why you mention student debt. How could Michigan affect the debt levels of folks moving into the state? Michigan does about average in getting it's own native students through college; it lags other states in its attraction of those from elsewhere who already have a degree.

 

Kevin Grand
Fri, 12/01/2017 - 4:51am

If you would like to know why I mentioned student debt, Mr. Wilkinson, I can give you 1.4-trillion good reasons below (which also happens to be nationwide and not solely limited to here in Michigan). That number that has increased about 62 percent over the past 10 years.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/17/student-loans-take-a-mental-toll-on-youn...

And the consequences from that just so happens to affect far more than whether or not that sheepskin will actually translate into a good paying job.

EM
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 11:42am

Not saying it’s not a national issue but in relation to this article, it would seem then that student loan debt would be a reason to move to a more affordable metropolis like Detroit, yet apparently that isn’t the case.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/05/2017 - 4:40am

Last weekend's Noel Night fiasco should easily answer that question, EM.

Jim tomlinson
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 9:42am

Post second education is too expensive. Like many european countries. It should be nearly free.

Michigan Observer
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 6:30pm

Why would student debt particularly affect Michigan ?

Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/05/2017 - 4:42am

The link above answers that question.

J Hendricks
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 7:03pm

If Michigan’s college graduation rate in the graphics is determined by who is still here then the data will be misinterpreted. Just from my own family’s experience we have contributed 3 kids (and soon a 4th) to other states after obtaining Michigan college degrees. The reason? Very specialized degrees for which there is very limited employment opportunities in the state. This is not a problem. It is the way it is. Michigan needs to focus on its strengths - and it will attract those professionals and technicians that see those jobs as what they want to do for their life’s work.

EM
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 11:43am

But is a problem for Michigan because our economy needs to be diverse to attract many different professionals not a net loss.

Matt
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 7:29pm

"The numbers are clear: Michigan’s economy would improve if more adults had college degrees."

Please explain why the inverse of your lead statement isn't even more correct, " If, (and you can add when and as), Michigan's economy improves more adults will have college degrees"!
Given the economic dislocation experienced by Michigan from 2000through 2010 why wouldn't fewer adults with college degrees be seen as a lagging indicator? Metzger seems to get it, the authors... not so much.

Michigan Observer
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 6:34pm

Matt is exactly right. This is an intractable chicken and egg problem. If we had more college graduates, we would have more jobs and income, but we need more jobs and income to attract more college graduates.

Rick Haglund
Fri, 12/01/2017 - 9:04am

I think Bridge should poll every member of the Legislature and ask them if they think Michigan needs more transplants and immigrants.

Rick
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 9:31am

Great idea. Most of the Republicans would refuse to answer or come up with some illogical response. They like Michigan the way it is - uneducated and willing to vote against their own interest based on fear and hatred (trademarked by Donald Trump).

John Q. Public
Fri, 12/01/2017 - 11:34am

A more pertinent question to me isn't whether this is the right way to increase economic growth, but whether economic growth should even be the primary goal of government.

The income spread between those with a degree and those without is at least partially policy-driven, as legislative bodies do everything they can to devalue labor.

Many years ago my own employer was very frank in saying that I got promoted because I had an advanced degree that set me apart "above" the competition, even though that degree was completely irrelevant to the nature of the work. I saw it often when I tried to interview and hire non-degreed people for high-paying jobs they were completely qualified to do: our HR wouldn't let me.

The economic value of many college degrees is often overstated, typically by those who hold them in order that they may accrue economic benefits disproportionate to their true value.

EM
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 11:51am

You make valid points but since you started with should, “economic growth . . . even be the primary goal of government?” I would say it should be a goal but I can necessarily say the primary goal of government.

Our governments highest law starts with “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” As this is our agreed upon document, until such time as it is amended the statement requires the government to have economic growth as a goal.

Warren E. McAlpine
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 3:16am

My sister, daughter, a cousin, and I graduated from the University of Michigan. We all went on to earn advanced degrees. My daughter and I attained masters and law degrees. I am the only one who resides in Michigan and I came back to the state after moving to California. Everyone else left Michigan following graduation from.U of M and never returned.

Matt
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 11:45am

The Michigan Tax Payers sure get a great return on their subsidies to higher Ed don't they? Why don't we design a program that helps residents pay for their Higher Ed after they've located and started a career here rather than the other way around?

Anonymous
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 3:23am

My sister, daughter, a cousin, and I graduated from the University of Michigan. We all went on to earn advanced degrees. My daughter and I attained masters and law degrees. I am the only one who resides in Michigan (moving back to the state after living in California). Everyone else left Michigan following their graduation from U of M and never returned.

duane
Sat, 12/02/2017 - 12:02pm

Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. French post some maps that report what we have been hearing for years if not decades.
What we, readers, need is information we haven’t heard. What we need to hear about are those who are earning the degrees and earning that added million dollars and more about how those degrees help them earn that added income. The students need to hear about what learning success means in personal terms, because they are the ones that will change the numbers being reported. We need to hear about why and how the successful students are earning those degrees so we can find ways to help the students, who aren’t learning, aren’t succeeding, take control of their learning. This article tells us the programs in place today and in the recent past are delivering the data being reported.

I remember reading an article by Mr. French about the merge of school districts and in that article he talked to students that were in the merger and changing schools and we learned about their experiences and what they were finding that seem to be helping them succeed. We need that type of reporting so we can hear what the challenges are to student learning, why those succeeding are succeeding, how they are succeeding.
We need to hear about success and how such success can be extended to include others instead of hearing with pictures that students aren’t learning.
I wish the Bridge editors would allow the reporters such as Mr. French and Mr. Wilkinson to do what they do best, gather and report. I wish Bridge would assign these two reporters to find out what the personal barriers are for students from students [not what adult assume], how and why students are learning and how they are overcoming barriers, and finding out from the students that are struggling why they are struggling.

Rick Haglund
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:17am

Interesting op-ed in Crain's this morning by Global Detroit Director Steve Tobocman, who says Michigan economic developers have no strategy to develop international talent, despite serious needs for more workers.