Mich. population flat; Congress seat at risk

The Detroit News

Michigan dropped one spot to the 10th most populous state in the nation in 2014, a trend that could cost it another congressional seat if the slide continues through the 2020 census count.

U.S. Census data released Tuesday shows North Carolina bypassed Michigan in 2014 to become the nation's ninth largest state by population. Michigan did see population gains from 2010, but they were dwarfed by the southern state's numbers.

Michigan had an estimated 9,909,877 million residents as of July, an increase of 33,379 from July 2010, the year of the last comprehensive national census. In contrast, North Carolina gained more than 384,476 residents over that span bringing it to an estimated population of 9,943,964.

"It was anticipated that Michigan's 2010 rank of eighth would drop two spots before the end of the decade," demographer Kurt Metzger, director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, said in an email to The Detroit News. "It just came about a little sooner than planned."

The figures show Michigan has only a small cushion of about 48,000 people allowing it to hold on to its 14 congressional seats. If the trend continues — other states gaining population at a greater pace than here — Michigan could repeat its loss of a U.S House seat after the 2010 census.

"That's not a lot," said Lansing-based pollster Ed Sarpolus. "As other states grow and we don't, that 48,000 will shrink."

But one Lansing insider wasn't ready to concede a seat in Congress just yet.

"My immediate reaction is that this is about something six years in the future that maybe happens, maybe doesn't," said Jeff Williams, chief executive of the Lansing-based research and consulting firm Public Sector Consultants.

"The takeaway for me is the great distance we have to go to keep up with the fast-growing states. For every person we add to our population, North Carolina adds 10."

But Williams noted that Michigan's economy is gaining momentum and said that could have an impact between now and the next census. Suppose, for example, it becomes a trend among college graduates to see Detroit — fresh out of bankruptcy and improving — as a good destination rather than Chicago, whose image is suffering as a result of murder rates there in the last couple of years, he said.

"I'm reminded of an old Yogi Berra quote: 'Predictions are hard, especially about the future.' "

The Governor's Office saw positive news in the data.

"What's essential here is that Michigan's population has grown once again ... that's great news and a vast improvement from the lost decade when Michigan was losing population," said Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder. "We're going to do everything we can to accelerate that progress and comeback."

Michigan lost one seat after the 2000 census; two after 1990 and one seat after the 1980 national headcount.

The newly released data also shows Florida bypassed New York to become the third largest state by population, at 19.9 million. The Sunshine State added an average of 803 residents each day between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, according to a census press release.

Texas, California and Florida gained the most people from 2013-14. Michigan's year-over-year gain of 11,684 placed it 32nd.

Michigan likely will retain its spot in the top 10, Metzger said.

"Its major threat is Virginia, which is still 100,000 persons behind," he said.

Six states lost population over the past year: Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska and Vermont.

A lack of in-migration is the primary reason Michigan is not growing as fast as the rest of the nation, said Xuan Liu, manager for data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

"As our population grows older, there will be continuously fewer births and more deaths," Liu wrote in an email to The News. "Therefore, the hope for population growth will be in migration, particularly international immigration."

Metzger said there is more work to be done to keep Michigan growing.

"The state must ramp up its efforts to hold on to our college graduates and develop programs that will keep our large immigrant college population here after graduation," Metzger said. "We must show those who are graduating that Michigan has the job opportunities they seek."

The United States saw its population increase by 2.4 million to 318.9 million, or 0.75 percent.


Top 10 state populations

1. California: 38,802,500

2. Texas: 26,956,958

3. Florida: 19,893,297

4. New York: 19,746,227

5. Illinois: 12,880,580

6. Pennsylvania: 12,787,209

7. Ohio: 11,594,163

8. Georgia: 10,097,343

9. North Carolina: 9,943,964

10. Michigan: 9,909,877

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Estimates are as of July 2014