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Census: More deaths than births in almost all Michigan counties

michigan map
Michigan gained population from 2010 to 2020, but long-term trends are prompting worries among policymakers. (Shutterstock)
  • Michigan’s population has fallen 43,212 since 2020 to 10,034,119
  • 76 of 83 counties had more deaths than births
  • The population losses are heaviest in southeast Michigan

Deaths outnumbered births in all but seven counties in Michigan in the year ending July 2022, new Census figures show, a result of the state’s aging population and the devastating impact of thousands of COVID-19 deaths.

That’s 92 percent of Michigan’s 83 counties, the fourth-highest rate in the nation, surpassed only by Maine, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Michigan’s overall population decreased 0.4 percent — 43,212 — to 10,034,119 from 2020 to 2022, driven largely by residents leaving southeast Michigan. Overall, 51 counties still experienced some population growth, albeit small.



Some of the losses are attributable to COVID, which killed more than 38,000 in the state since 2020. Long-term, though, Michigan’s population is expected to peak in the next decades and then fall if more people leave the state. 

That’s triggered alarm.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emailed residents a survey about “long-term priorities for your state,” asking point-blank “on a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to build your life in Michigan.”

Other questions:

  • Do you feel you can do (your dream job) in Michigan?
  • What is the biggest barrier to living in Michigan?
  • (In) what other state would you consider living? Why?

The latest Census estimates are a reality check after the state gained nearly 200,000 people from 2010 to 2020. Since then, the state has lost 43,000 people, with the most losses coming in Wayne County, which dropped 36,500 to 1,757,043 people.

Other counties with significant population losses were also in southeast Michigan: Macomb (down 7,024, to 874,195) and Washtenaw (down 5,889 to 366,376) and Oakland County (down 4,964 to 1,269,431.) 

Ottawa County in west Michigan continues to lead state growth, up 7,222 people to 300,873. Livingston County was the only other county to grow by more than 2,000 residents since 2020, adding 2,292 to reach 196,161, according to the Census population estimates that are based on births, deaths and migration records.


Population changes are based on “natural growth” — the difference between births and deaths, and migration both domestic and international. 

For decades, Michigan has had hundreds of thousands leave the state. Since 2020, the net loss to other parts of the country has been nearly 17,000, according to the Census.

Since 1990, the state has recorded 1.22 million more births than deaths — but the state’s population has only grown by 782,000 over that time frame, suggesting more than 400,000 people have moved to other states. 

Both U-Haul and Atlas Van Lines said in January that Michigan was in the Top 5 for the highest percentage of one-way trips out of state in 2022.

Whitmer’s survey attempts to find out why people would move — or stay — asking people to rank “how big a barrier” jobs, wages, higher education, housing and even climate are to “building a life” in Michigan.

“Governor Whitmer’s focus is always on building a state where families want to live and work, businesses want to locate and invest, and where everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” said Bobby Leddy, a Whitmer spokesperson, in an emailed response to a Bridge Michigan question asking why the survey is being taken.

Leddy did not say why the survey asks about other states, but he said Whitmer’s 2022 re-election “made it clear” that voters wanted the governor “to pass relief for high inflation, attract businesses and good-paying jobs, protect their rights and freedoms, and keep our communities safe.” 

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, a planning agency issued a report this week forecasting that the seven-county region, which makes up nearly 48 percent of the state’s overall population, will grow slowly through 2050, returning to its 2001 peak population in 2027 of just over 4.85 million people.


But the region’s demography, rooted in slow growth will be a drag on economic growth, said Xuan Liu, director of research for SEMCOG.

“The demographics are really setting the speed limit for economic growth,” Liu said.

He predicted that a lack of workers could constrain employers from expanding and businesses from opening. Many workers may be asked to delay retirement, Liu predicted.

“The prime working age population (25-54) won’t grow at all,” he said. “We’ll have to rely on people working later to fill the jobs.”

The changes have left the state with one of the oldest populations in the nation, with its median age of 40.2 years the 12th highest in the country.

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