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Climate change, bad infrastructure drives away Michigan residents, report says

Map of the stateof Michigan with selective focus on state name
A new report recommends a host of infrastructure improvements to help increase Michigan’s sagging population. (Claudio Divizia /
  • Michigan is struggling to attract residents as more people leave the state
  • Climate change, infrastructure and environmental challenges may be driving people away, according to a new report 
  • The report also suggests more taxes may be necessary to combat population woes

Climate change and poor infrastructure are helping drive Michigan residents to Southern states, according to a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a public affairs research organization. 

Census data shows that nearly 15,000 Michigan residents — mostly young people — left the state between 2020 and 2021, helping lower the population by 0.2 percent to 10 million people.


The fastest-growing demographic Michigan are those over 65, and they now compose 25 percent of the population


The report highlights Michigan’s poor roads, inaccessibility to clean water, outdated storm sewers and lagging power reliability and high utility rates. 

The Citizens Research Council report, released Tuesday, is the fourth to a five-part research series that addresses the state’s challenges and opportunities. 

“On national highway system routes, Michigan ranks 47th in pavement quality, well below the average state, and worse than all nearby states,” Eric Paul Dennis, research associate for the organization, said during a media event Tuesday. 

“It’s been estimated that we’re underfunding our roads by about $4 billion a year. Some times, estimates are as high as $7 billion,” he said. 

The report recommends new fees for roads, which are sure to be controversial. Michigan has the sixth-highest total tax on gas in the country, 28.6 cents per gallon, plus 6 percent sales tax and the 18.4 cent federal tax.

Other reforms include reducing allowable truck weights: Michigan allows trucks to carry more weight than any other state, according to the federal government, up to 164,000 pounds. That is double New Jersey’s limit.

The report points out that the Great Lakes and other natural amenities are a selling point for new residents, but the state’s industrial legacy hurts residents.

Several sites are polluted because of factories and many cities suffer the most, according to the report. 

About 12 percent of Black children have asthma compared to 5.5. percent of white children, according to U.S. News & World Report. And nearly 40 percent of Black children live in areas with poor environmental conditions compared to 10 percent of white children. 

Michigan’s infrastructure is typically rated worse than the national average, allowing surrounding Midwestern states to over-perform economically, according to the report. 

“Compared to nearby states, Michigan’s power grid is more unreliable, Even though we generally pay more for electricity,” Dennis said. 

The state’s two main energy suppliers, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are under scrutiny for frequent and long-lasting power outages, which company officials blame on climate change. 

Over the past few months, severe storms have knocked out power to more hundreds of thousands of residents, sometimes for days on end.

“As we think about fixing the infrastructure, it’s important that we think about sustainable development and understanding the interrelationships between the environment and the infrastructure,” said Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council. 


Michigan has experienced warmer winters and wetter springs since 1990. The average temperature each year has increased by as much as 3 degrees.  

The report recommends routing power lines underground, redesigning stormwater systems and routinely inspecting and maintaining critical flood control facilities.

Doing so would likely cost billions of dollars.

“Part of the challenge is that we have to fix what we have but just fixing what we have isn’t going to prepare us for the future,” Lupher said. 

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