Census: Michigan population rises to 10M but state to lose US House seat

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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Washington — Michigan's population grew by 2% in the last decade, but that isn't enough to keep the state from losing a seat in the U.S. House, dropping from 14 to 13 representatives.

The first data from the 2020 census, released Monday, shows that the state population as of April 1, 2020, was at 10,077,331— up from the 2010 count of 9,883,640.

It's the first time that the state's population, which peaked at 10,055,315 residents in 2004, has been at 10 million or greater since prior to the Great Recession in 2007.

But Michigan fell from the eighth-largest state to the 10th-largest in the union, based on the new census data, which counted 193,691 more residents of the state than in 2010. Michigan was surpassed by North Carolina and Georgia.

"As expected, Michigan will lose a congressional seat, but the state nevertheless will remain an important swing state in presidential politics," said Jonathan Hanson, a lecturer in statistics for public policy at University of Michigan.

"The full impact will be more clear once we see how the new district boundaries drawn by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission differ from those created by a Republican-controlled process in 2011."

Michigan has lost U.S. House seats after every census since 1980 and had been projected to lose another seat because its population has grown slowly compared with other states'. 

But the growth in population "is a good thing and an improvement over the last period," when Michigan was the only state in the nation to show a decline between 2000 and 2010, said Eric Guthrie, the state demographer. 

"As far as Michigan losing or not losing congressional seats, that’s also dependent on the population of other states. Michigan has to have kept up with other states in order to keep up with its congressional delegation," Guthrie said.

"It's dependent on how well other states performed and, also, how well other states were counted. We have a lot of moving parts."

Detroit 2020 Census Campaign executive director Victoria Kovari looks over a Detroit map showing city neighborhoods that were under-counted in the 2010 census.

The Constitution requires that seats in the U.S. House of Representatives be reapportioned among the states every 10 years according to the results of the census. 

"These counts determine the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives," Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. "This is a unique ritual that has occurred only 23 other times in American history."

Michigan would have needed 5,692 more people toward its apportionment population to keep its seat, according to the Census Bureau. It is among seven states that will lose a representative, along with California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which had the largest rate of decrease in population.

Six states will gain seats, including Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon, with Texas adding two.

Overall, the shift of seven seats among 13 states "is the smallest number of seats shifting among the states in any decade since the current method of calculating apportionment was adopted in 1941," said Ron Jarmin, acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau, on a call.

Since 1940, the regional trend with apportionment has been an increase in the number of congressional seats for the South and West and a bleeding of seats for the Northeast and Midwest, making for a combined net shift of 84 seats to the South and West regions, Jarmin said.

T​​​​​​he average population size of each House District based on the 2020 census will be 761,169 people. For Michigan, the figure is 775,726 people per representative.

This March 19, 2020, file photo, shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident.

The total U.S. population count for 2020 stood at 331,449,281, which is a 7.4% increase from 2010 but the second-lowest growth rate in U.S. history, behind the 1930s, Jarmin said.

By region, the South grew the fastest with a 10.2% increase, followed by the West with 9.2%, the Northeast with 4.1% and the Midwest at 3.1%, the lowest rate of growth. 

The Census Bureau measures the population for purposes of apportionment as the resident population of the 50 states, plus the overseas military and federal civilian employees and their dependents who could be allocated to a home state. The bureau counted 7,111 people in Michigan's overseas population.

The population trend in Michigan is driven by domestic migration, said Guthrie, whose office has projected Michigan will exceed 10.2 million in population by 2025. 

"Over the last several years, the domestic migration has been negative, meaning Michigan still loses more people to other states than it gains," Guthrie said. "But our international migration has been strong enough to offset those losses and still have population increases."

The population loss to out-migration is a continuation of a trend the state has seen since the middle of the 2000s when Michigan started to see economic trouble over a long period due to the recession, he noted. 

"We haven't recovered to a point where we're bringing in more people from other states than we're losing," Guthrie said.

"The international migration has been the driver that has been really helping to keep our migration positive. That's going to continue into the future, especially we see continuing declines in fertility."

Michigan is also seeing what's called a "natural" decline in population in many counties — that is, more deaths than births, as the baby boomer generation ages, he said. 

The birth rate has been declining nationally since the 1970s, and demographers are expecting that the coronavirus pandemic could produce a baby "bust" period, as more families postpone having children due to economic uncertainty. 

Monday's data from the 2020 Census doesn't provide any insight into where the population might have shifted within Michigan, as that data won't be released until later this year.

Recent estimates from the Census Bureau have shown Detroit losing residents for some time, though that rate has declined in recent years, Guthrie noted. The city's population was estimated at 670,031 in 2019, a loss of 2,946, and the largest drop since 2015

Grand Rapids, by comparison, has had the state's fastest-growing metropolitan population. 

"I wouldn’t expect to see major shifts in those migration trends," Guthrie said.

The Census Bureau has delayed the release of more localized data from its 2020 count until August, in part due to pandemic-related delays that temporarily suspended in-person field operations last year.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Monday he’s still waiting to see the outcome in the state’s largest city.

“We worked really hard. Certainly, Michigan’s population has not kept up with other states, but I don’t know if that reflects on Detroit or not. We won’t know that until September,” Duggan said.

“The federal government is looking at the way (the census) was conducted, and I’m optimistic Detroit is going to come out OK.”

The 2020 Census counted 4.87 million addresses in Michigan, and 69% of households completed the census on their own and on time, according to data released Monday. That's compared to 63% in 2010.

About 78% of Michigan households that completed the census survey did so online. 

Redistricting process

The delayed data has implications for redrawing maps for both the U.S. House and for state legislative districts, set to take place later this year.

It's unclear how Michigan congressional districts will look after redistricting, but after each of the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the House seats lost were in populousSoutheast Michigan, forcing political battles each time in a new consolidated district.

This decade, in an effort to end gerrymandering, redrawing the political lines in Michigan will fall to a new 13-member independent redistricting commission. 

Last week, the commission filed a lawsuit asking the Michigan Supreme Court for more time for finalizing the redrawn maps. The commission is seeking to extend the Nov. 1 deadline under the state Constitution for approving the new maps to account for the delay in the second tranche of census data and still allow 45 days for public comment.

Under the new criteria for redistricting in Michigan, districts are supposed to be more "geographically compact and contiguous," and the maps shall not provide "disproportionate advantage" to political parties or candidates. 

Democrat Mark Grebner of the East Lansing-based Practical Political Consulting said it's essentially impossible at this point to determine which member of Congress will find themselves without an obvious home district next year, noting it might be several areas of the state that are redrawn. 

"The crucial thing is that until the full (census) results are released no one can really do anything," said Grebner, who has been involved in past redistricting processes. 

"Nobody has a clue what the Michigan Redistricting Commission will do. They are a complete wild card. They’ve never existed. Their chemistry is whatever it is. ... You can’t begin speculating because they haven’t begun speculating."

The loss of a seat in Congress means Michigan will have one fewer vote when it comes to federal resources and policies that benefit the state and one less voice on committees that influence what makes it into legislation. 

Michigan peaked with 19 representatives in the House in the 1960s and '70s, but lost a seat after the 1980 census, two after 1990, one after the 2000 census and another after 2010. 

"While expected, it is disappointing that Michigan will lose a seat in Congress. Even though Michigan’s population is growing, it is not growing as fast as other states," said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township.

"As a member of Congress in our state’s congressional delegation, I will continue to work every day to ensure that Michigan families have a voice in Washington."

mburke@detroitnews.com

Staff Writers Riley Beggin and Sarah Rahal contributed.

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