Census: Washtenaw leads region in population growth
Washtenaw County led southeastern Michigan in population growth last year, outpacing its neighbors Macomb and Oakland counties, which also had increases, according to 2016 U.S. Census data estimates released Thursday.
Washtenaw’s growth contrasts with the continued decline in Wayne County, which lost 7,696 people — the smallest decline for the state’s largest county since 2004 — bringing its total population to 1.74 million.
“Washtenaw is doing better in terms of attracting people from outside,” Xuan Liu, manager of research and data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, wrote in an email to The News. “This could be because of its education resources, growing knowledge-based economy, and quality of life.”
Washtenaw grew by 3,862 residents to 364,709, an increase of 1.07 percent. Kent County on the west side had the largest population surge in the state, adding 6,078 residents, to 642,173. But its percentage increase of 0.96 percent was slightly lower than Washtenaw.
The drop in Wayne last year was close to its 2015 decline, which was 7,857, according to census data.
Kurt Metzger, a demographer and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, said he’s concerned that likely means continued population losses for Detroit. The city’s population was 677,116 as of last summer, a decline of 3,107 residents from the previous year.
“It’s going to be tough for Detroit to have gained,” he said.
Since 2010, Washtenaw has shown the fastest population growth in southeastern Michigan, growing nearly 5.5 percent or by 19,141 residents.
“Our market is extremely strong,” said Ed Ridha, a Realtor in the Ann Arbor area. “And it’s not just Ann Arbor.”
He said smaller cities are attracting attention including Dexter, Ypsilanti, Saline and Chelsea. He’s seeing buyers from out-of-state and surrounding counties going for the higher-priced homes in the area, he said.
“We benefit a lot from having the universities we have ... and the medical systems,” said Teresa Gillotti, housing manager for Washtenaw’s Office of Community and Economic Development. “They seem to do well even through the recession.”
The Washtenaw officials acknowledged the benefits of the population boost, but said when they look deeper at the numbers they are concerned to find that areas of the county are doing better than others.
A recent report by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management ranked the Ann Arbor area as the eighth most “economically segregated” metro area in the nation. Researchers used factors related to income, education and occupation in their calculation.
Housing cost increases mean more people are commuting longer distances to jobs and many are “living at the margins,” said Andrea Plevek, director of the Washtenaw Office of Community and Economic Development. She described that disparity as “economically dangerous,” adding the agency is combatting that in part by looking at housing affordability issues.
Elsewhere in Metro Detroit, the population in Oakland County increased by 0.3 percent, or 3,669, to 1.24 million residents in 2016, while Macomb rose 0.37 percent, or 3,223, to 867,730.
The six-county Detroit region’s population went virtually unchanged last year, adding only 79 people in 2016 to 4.3 million. That number includes Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair counties.
For the second year, Wayne County was No. 2 in the nation in the largest population decline, behind Illinois’ Cook County, which lost 21,324
Michigan’s overall population increased for the fifth straight year in 2016, but its growth was dwarfed by southern and western states. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the state gained 10,585 residents, increasing 0.1 percent to 9,928,300 as of July.
Top five counties with the largest population gains
Top five counties with the largest population losses
Wayne County, Michigan
Genesee County, Michigan
Jackson County, Michigan
Saginaw County, Michigan
Marquette County, Michigan