In the Big Ten Conference of Migration Trends, Michigan Tops a Weak Division

No fans cheering 'we're No. 26' nationwide, but state was dead last not long ago

There are two meaningful measures of success for a college football team: its win-loss record and its national ranking. In contrast, there are many ways to measure how well a team’s home state is doing. Among the most intriguing is its migration trend. Specifically, is your team’s state a place that attracts opportunity-seekers? Or is it one they flee?

Every year the moving company United Van Lines publishes just such a “win/loss” record for states. Its records reveal how many people moved into a state versus how many moved away. A state which attracts many newcomers compared to people who move away is probably doing something right.

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What would Michigan’s standing in this migration competition be if it were expressed in the language of college football standings? In 2016, the state of Michigan was the champion of the Big Ten’s East division. But in terms of attracting people to live, the Big Ten was a very weak conference.

For 2016, United Van Lines placed Michigan in the “balanced” category. People who left Michigan for other states accounted for 52 percent of the company’s interstate business. The other 48 came from people who moved here from other states.

Matching state migration standings with their Big Ten college football teams shows that the highest-ranking Big Ten state was Minnesota — which with an inbound/outbound ratio of only 51/49 finished just 18th nationwide. The state of Michigan’s 48/52 record placed it 26th nationwide, the best finish by a state from the Big Ten’s East division.

That’s not great but it is a big improvement from the days when Michigan was the laughing stock of the conference, finishing dead last in migration from 2006 through 2009. In 2010, no one in Michigan was cheering “We’re No. 48” in the ranking of migration ratios. But the state has rebounded since then and now is considered a middle-of-the pack contender.

In college football, the state of Michigan is good enough to win the Big Ten East and qualify for a pre-New Year’s Day bowl game.