Michigan’s attempts to reverse the tide of outgoing migration and steadily decreasing resident population is pondering plans to pay people to relocate to the Great Lakes State.
Michigan ranks 49th in the nation for population growth since 1990, and the state’s population has decreased since 2020. Michigan’s birth rate is below the national average and it’s death rate is above the national average. Net migration to the state was negative for every year between 2011 and 2020.
As previously reported by The Midwesterner, abortions have increased in the state by 12% since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was elected in 2018, and the state has been among the slowest in population growth for the past 30 years.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last June that she was appointing 28 members to her new Growing Michigan Together Council, which said last week it might attempt to lure new residents to the state through grants, tax credits, or other tax credits, according to an article in last week’s Bridge Michigan.
The article quotes from a draft report from the GMTC.
On page 26 of the draft report, the Council noted: “Competing with other states for talent requires a combination of targeted marketing, novel incentives, and robust policies to reverse current population trends. More and more regions across the country—from Northwest Arkansas to Topeka, Kansas, to Rochester, New York—are offering relocation incentives, tax credits, down-payment assistance, and other incentives to attract talent to fill in-demand, high-wage jobs.”
The final draft of the report is due December 15.
“Paying people to move to Michigan would be like slapping a Band-Aid on our state’s population decline,” Rep. Mike Harris, R-Waterford, said in a statement. “Families won’t suddenly change their minds and come to our state for a small reward. Unfortunately, the governor’s population council seems poised to recommend this and other extravagant new programs — paired with expensive new taxes that will make Michigan a more expensive place to live.
He continued: “Instead, we should be focused on cost-effective tactics to address people’s underlying concerns that have led to our lagging population. We should rebuild roads and bridges, bolster public safety, and boost education, and we must achieve these goals by strengthening standards, reinvesting our resources, and rejecting burdensome tax hikes on Michiganders.”
Harris’ news release notes that a Bridge Michigan analysis concluded similar programs in other states were failures. Nor does the Council report include funding options for such an incentive program, he added. The representative recommends increased state spending on infrastructure, public safety, and education. Instead, he said, the state wasted its $9 billion surplus on “unsustainable new programs and pet projects.”
Michigan Capitol Confidential Managing Editor James David Dickson last week called out the report for failing to mention the state’s green energy policies.
“The state regularly blasts out its progressive bona fides on billboards in other states,” he said. “Yet a board convened to grow Michigan’s population doesn’t mention the energy transition by name?” he asked rhetorically.
Dickson noted that the Whitmer administration’s clean energy programs include shutting down the Line 5 pipelines that have traversed five miles of the Straits of Mackinac for the past 70 years. Not only has she and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel attempted to shutter the pipeline, but they are also attempting to scuttle an underground replacement tunnel.
“Perhaps ‘Move to Michigan,’ where appointees of the governor can fill the countryside with solar arrays, and the attorney general wants to shut down a pipeline’ is too many words for a billboard,” Dickson wrote.
In a study published Nov. 30, Hannah Kling, assistant professor of economics and data analytics at Belmont Abbey College, N.C., offered several suggestions to grow Michigan’s population.
“When considering policies to increase population growth in Michigan, legislators should evaluate the research about what works,” Kling said. “The evidence highlights the limits of using public policy to significantly boost population levels. Some of the clear policy recommendations that emerge from the research — creating economic growth, removing needless restrictions on housing construction, reducing crime, improving school performance — are complex problems where the impact could take years to develop.”
Kling noted four factors driving population change: births, deaths, domestic migration and international immigration.
Despite the challenges facing Michigan, Kling said the lessons for the state’s policymakers are clear.
“Economic freedom is clearly important,” she said. “The state should aim to make a welcoming place for all types of entrepreneurs and other job creators to attract investments and create employment opportunities for workers. It should make it easier for people to qualify for work by eliminating unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. Improving government efficiency goes a long way: providing high-quality public services that enhance people’s lives without charging growth-limiting tax rates can attract new populations.”