See how population is changing in your Michigan county (interactive map)

Population growth slow in Michigan

Just 28 counties in Michigan have added population since 2010. Overall, the state increased just over 44,000 residents in that time, one of the worst gains in the country. Most growth is in southern and western Michigan, while the north continues to lose population and age.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Michigan’s population, throttled by a long recession, is slowly rebounding, particularly in western counties such as Kent and Ottawa.

But the tepid growth, just over 44,500 to 9.93 million residents in 2016, is up only 0.5 percent over the state’s 2010 population. Twenty-eight counties added population and 55 lost, according to 2016 population estimates from the U.S. Census.

Only six states saw weaker growth (West Virginia, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island) while many have grown by more than 0.5 percent every year since 2010.

The growth band of Michigan runs from Macomb and Oakland counties west to Lake Michigan. But the gains in Oakland and Macomb – nearly 78,500 – are almost completely offset by neighboring Wayne County’s loss of more than 71,000. The three counties comprise 39 percent of the state’s population, with about 3.86 million residents.

Only four counties (Ottawa, Kent, Grand Traverse and Washtenaw) have grown more than 5 percent since 2010; six lost more than 5 percent over that time (Ontonagon, Gogebic, Montmorency, Schoolcraft, Alcona and Iron counties). The other 55 lost population, ranging from an estimate of 43 people in Lake County (west central Lower Peninsula) to Wayne County’s loss.

Related: Northern Michigan’s 'Disability Belt' now rivals the Deep South and Appalachia

But the state, the only one in the nation to see the overall population decline from 2000 to 2010, is growing slowly, and the median age of the population continues to rise.

No state in the country has as many counties as Michigan where the median age is 50 or above (13: Alcona, Ontonagon, Montmorency, Keweenaw, Roscommon, Iron, Presque Isle, Leelanau, Iosco, Lake, Oscoda, Mackinac and Schoolcraft counties).  Percentage wise, only three other states (Montana, North Dakota and Hawaii) have more counties with a median age that high.

Economists have warned that Michigan’s aging population will have a lasting effect. With so many baby boomers and too few young people, the imbalance will put pressure on the economy. It will open opportunities in health care, but make it difficult to find workers in many fields, they say.

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John Saari
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 9:07am

Most of us are capable of moving to where the jobs, grocery stores and hospitals are. Sad, but most of us must move to our job. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been. Most of us cannot afford to live in a Park

David Waymire
Thu, 08/31/2017 - 5:38pm

Would love to see if there is a connection between a county's share of college grads and its population growth. I would bet that where college grads choose to live, the population is up and there are jobs. Where college grads don't live, there is no middle class (factory work at $15 an hour isn't going to provide money for service workers).

Sat, 09/02/2017 - 10:07am

The author's statistical methods are flawed - this is comparing 2010 Decennial Census data to 2016 American Community Survey. They are completely different data sources that are calculated much differently (actual count vs. sampling, respectively).

Probably doesn't change the trends much, though.

Erwin Haas
Tue, 11/14/2017 - 7:34pm

I travel a lot and over the years noted that as one crossed the borders from one to another political boundary, that businesses, populations and economic activity were all concentrated on the side that had the less intrusive government. I call this The Haas Iron Law of Borders.

As one travels into Indiana from Michigan one notes that there are fields, empty buildings to the north but that gas stations, liquor stores, factories and populations mass on the Indiana side. There is a road (Rt 2 I think) that crosses between Wisconsin and the UP several times. The Wisconsin side is populated and has bars, sports shops, towns, but there are only weeds on the Michigan side.

I note, for the record, that states that are doing poorly, to wit, West Virginia, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Michigan are not governed by Libertarians. More relevant; Do I detect the stench of Economic Development programs and of the Great Leap Forward in these melancholy places?