The Census Bureau released state-level population estimates this morning and reports once again that Michigan lost population. These are the first one-year state-by-state estimates for population changes released by the Bureau since the official Census state data was released in 2010. The population changes are measured from April 2010 to July 2011.

Michigan was only one of three states in the nation to lose population, along with Rhode Island and Maine. Rhode Island saw the greatest percent decrease in population at .12 percent; Michigan was second with a loss of 7,400 people at .08 percent, with Maine a distant third, losing only 200 people.This includes population gains and losses from births and deaths and international migration. Net migration from April 2010 to July 2011 was far more dramatic as another 57,000 Michigan citizens left the Great Lake State.

According to an official release from the Bureau, the top ten states in percentage growth include Washington D.C., primarily a result of interstate migration. This is the first time D.C.-growth has outpaced other states since the 1940s. 

The 10 Fastest Growing States from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011

Rank

State

Percent Change

1. District of Columbia 2.70
2. Texas 2.10
3. Utah 1.93
4. Alaska 1.76
5. Colorado 1.74
6 North Dakota 1.69
7. Washington 1.57
8. Arizona 1.42
9. Florida 1.36
10. Georgia 1.32

The Mackinac Center has repeatedly covered interstate migration as a singularly effective measurement of a state’s quality of life. People do not uproot their lives without strong provocation. The number one incentive may be as simple as “more opportunity.” Opportunity manifests itself in many ways. For instance, it could mean a job opportunity, less expensive property costs, better amenities such as parks and more days of sunshine.

Did the fact that Nevada and Texas enjoyed more days of sunshine in the last decade drive Americans into these states’ respective bosoms? Yes, but that’s not the only reason. The Center’s research (and others) suggests that flexible labor climates are significant as well. Among the nine states listed above, six maintain Right-to-Work statutes and another, Colorado, maintains a labor peace act, which makes it more difficult to put an “agency fee” clause in a union contract.

Other research shows that the RTW variable alone is a powerful economic development tool, especially with regard to manufacturing employment. Heaven forbid one of Michigan’s southern neighbors — such as Indiana — should adopt a RTW as it would drain off manufacturers, job providers and workers from Michigan ever more rapidly.

In 2008, the Pacific Research Institute published an economic freedom index that collected some “143 indicators comprised of 209 underlying variables from five sectors (fiscal, regulatory, judicial, size of government and welfare spending) from each state” and found that states that were most free also happened to enjoy much higher rates of inbound migration than the 20 least free.

The Mackinac Center has chronicled Michigan’s outbound migration patterns over the last decade using data from the Census Bureau and United Van Lines. Through the first half of 2009, 70 percent of UVLs Michigan-related traffic was outbound. Through 2010 Michigan had the second highest outbound traffic rate, second only to New Jersey. New UVL data for 2011 will be available in 2012.

If Michigan is to reverse the trend of massive departures that took place this past decade, it must lower the cost of working, living, investing and raising a family in the Great Lake State. Without taking proactive measures to improve our economic climate, it’s easy to anticipate our children choosing those sunny, business-friendly states to the west and south over Michigan.