Yet these statistics, as discouraging as they are, may pale in comparison to another statistic used by economists: migration. Perhaps no single metric better sums up a region's quality of life - from economic to social opportunities — like migration.

Michigan residents are leaving the state. United Van Lines, the largest mover of household goods in the United States, is a private, widely used source of migration data. Since 1977, UVL has tracked its customers' points of origin and destination, and they have published inbound and outbound percentages for the 48 contiguous states.

Hicks and LaFaive have performed a statistical analysis of UVL's data and found it to be very highly correlated with actual Census data, making UVL figures something of a leading indicator of migration trends. United Van Lines reported that throughout 2008, 67.1 percent of all its Michigan-related traffic was outbound. This outbound rate was the highest in the nation and 8.2 percentage points higher than the second-highest state.[197]

Things may be getting worse. UVL's mid-year data for 2009 show that through June 30, a staggering 70 percent of all Michigan-related UVL moves were outbound. The next closest state in terms of outbound traffic is North Dakota, at 59.5 percent.[198]

The outbound migration from our state has profound consequences. Each person who leaves represents a potential consumer, investor, employee, employer or taxpayer.[*] The loss of human capital is the most devastating loss of all, because only human beings can make all the other types of capital grow.

[*] In December 2008, Census Bureau data indicated that after accounting for births, deaths and all migration, Michigan had lost population for the third year in a row. It was one of only two states to see a net population decline (46,000) from July 2007 to July 2008.

[197] Michael D. LaFaive and Michael Hicks, "MichiGONE: New Migration Data Dark and Portentous," (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2009), (accessed August 11, 2009).

[198] Jennifer Bonham, "Western States Maintain Growth While the Great Lakes Region Continues Outbound Moving Trends, According to United Van Lines 2009 Mid-Year Migration Study," (United Van Lines, 2009).