Sorry, governor, Mich. still losing families

During his 2012 State of the State speech last week, Gov. Rick Snyder included, among his "Dashboard Updates," a special mention of the newly released Atlas Van Lines moving index. The stated reason for the mention was that Atlas' index showed that, in 2011, Michigan stopped a six-year trend of more people moving out of Michigan than moving in.

Indeed, the press release coming from Atlas Van Lines stated, "Again seeing the majority of its states with more outbound than inbound moves, the Midwest region only has three balanced states – Iowa, South Dakota and Michigan. Despite uncertain economic conditions, Michigan became a balanced state following a six-year streak as an outbound state."

However, a look at Michigan showed the following:

In 2011, there was an outbound net of only 76 households (1,644 in and 1,720 out), compared to net leavers of 414 in 2010, 613 in 2009, 773 in 2008 and 1,713 in 2007. In fact, 2011's total was the lowest of the decade (Atlas reported back to 2002).

Texas and North Carolina came in as the highest numbers of net in-bounders in this study.

Well, Atlas Van Lines is not the only mover to release an annual migration report. We are also able to review data provided by Allied Van Lines and United Van Lines.

The 2011 data from Allied's Annual Magnet States report shows 900 more households leaving the state (1,529 in and 2,429 out) than coming in. This placed us third-highest among states losing families, behind only Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The only true turnaround that I can find in the data is the fact that Michigan had 249 fewer outbound moves than during the previous year. These results are consistent with IRS data that I reported on previously, in that Michigan continues to send more folks away than it pulls in, but the differential is getting smaller. The data also support the winners in that Texas maintained its No. 1 ranking (going on seven years now) for inbound moves, with Florida in second place.

California was the surprise state by turning around an outbound flow and jumping from 33rd place to 7th, due primarily to new affordability brought about by decreasing home prices.

Finally, we look at the results of the United Van Lines migration study. Their results tend to closely mirror those of Allied in that they packed 960 more households in the process of leaving Michigan than those headed our way. United ranks states by the percentage of total moves. Those with high shares of outbound traffic were Illinois (60.8 percent), New Jersey (60.5 percent) and New York (58.3 percent). Michigan (58 percent) moved from the No. 3 spot on the high-outbound list in 2010 to No. 4 in 2011. It had claimed the top outbound spot every year from 2006-2009.

Those are positive trends. But they don't exactly conform with what the governor was saying on Jan. 18 at the State Capitol.

The movers have spoken: While we are still packing up more households than we are unpacking, we are moving in the right direction. If the domestic auto industry continues to prosper; if we can continue to attract foreign research and development facilities (maybe even Fiat will relocate); if Global Michigan gets legs and we figure out how to attract and retain our young college graduates, we may have several indices to truly tout in the next few years.

Kurt Metzger leads Data Driven Detroit. He writes for Bridge on demographic trends and what they mean for Michigan. Metzger worked for the U.S. Census Bureau for 15 years and has been studying demographic data and issues in Michigan for three decades.

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Thu, 01/26/2012 - 10:55am
Kurt, do you have anything on new college grads?, (the ones who don't use moving companies). I'd bet this picture would still be really be ugly. Do you have anything on these?
Sun, 01/29/2012 - 1:09am
And, yet, the Census Bureau estimates seems to corroborate Atlas's numbers. The truth is that we'll see a net population gain for next year. Michigan's situation has been bad enough without constantly trying to exaggerate it, Kurt.
Sun, 01/29/2012 - 5:52pm
Thanks Kurt for a thoughtful and well writen article.