Migration Troubling, Especially in Michigan

"Cry me a future/Where the revelations run amok/Ladies and gentlemen/Lions and tigers come running/Just to steal your luck." — From "Especially in Michigan," by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

United Van Lines has released mid-year data on where it takes its clients to and from in the 48 contiguous states. Once again, Michigan finds itself in the number one position. That is, 61.6 percent of all Michigan-specific UVL traffic is outbound. Fortunately, this is down from 70 percent during the same the same time frame last year. Unfortunately, that drop may be a function of having nowhere to go. 

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Michigan's political class must make major changes to the state's policy landscape in order to make the Great Lakes State attractive again to people, entrepreneurs and other business leaders.

Migration has been an important area of research to the Mackinac Center because - as we have said many times - there is perhaps no better metric for measuring quality of life issues. These can encompass job opportunities, tax structure and levels, climate, recreation, crime and even smog. For some reason, people are voting to leave the Great Lakes State, and have been in significant numbers for some years now.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Michigan has lost net population for the last four years in a row and was only one of three states (Rhode Island and Maine were the others) to lose population last year. More than 87,000 people migrated from Michigan between July 2008 and July 2009 alone. This migration has profound consequences. Not only do people take their wealth with them, they take their vital talents, too.

A January 2010 report from the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy estimates that New Jersey's outbound migration from 2004 through 2008 led to a drop in state wealth of $70 billion. New Jersey was ranked 3rd highest in UVL's outbound traffic through June 30 at 59.9 percent.

How do we reverse Michigan's migration trend? Simple: Make our state a place in which people and job providers can feel free to thrive. You do that by lowering the cost of doing so. The government can help by cutting taxes and state spending, reforming labor law and reining in job-killing regulations. It can also make it easier for people to choose the best and safest schools for their kids, to get to work on safe streets and to see that courts work honorably and efficiently.

For more on what Mackinac Center analysts think should be done to improve Michigan, see "101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan."