Blog Archive

January 2012

Kurt on Michigan Moving Data

By Louis Bach, Communications

Source: Bridge Magazine

If you enjoyed Rob’s analysis of Michigan moving data, be sure to check out Kurt’s article on that data in Bridge Magazine. Kurt fact-checks statements that Governor Snyder made during his 2012 State of the State Address.  Snyder claimed that Michigan’s net migration had become balanced last year, but Kurt’s examination of the data leads to a different conclusion:

The only true turnaround that I can find in the data is the fact that Michigan had 249 fewer outbound moves than during the previous year. These results are consistent with IRS data that I reported on previously, in that Michigan continues to send more folks away than it pulls in, but the differential is getting smaller… [These] are positive trends. But they don’t exactly conform with what the governor was saying on Jan. 18 at the State Capitol.

The movers have spoken: While we are still packing up more households than we are unpacking, we are moving in the right direction. If the domestic auto industry continues to prosper; if we can continue to attract foreign research and development facilities;… if Global Michigan gets legs and we figure out how to attract and retain our young college graduates, we may have several indices to truly tout in the next few years.

Read more at Bridge Magazine.

ArtServe Michigan on the Creative State of Our Economy

ArtServe Michigan recently released a report regarding the importance of the arts and culture as a stimulus to economic improvement in the State of Michigan. One of the results of their Michigan Culture Data Project finds that “in 2010, arts, culture and historical attractions and events accounted for $2.1 billion, or 17 percent, of total tourism spending in Michigan…” Click the infographic below to see a larger version, and download the whole report (2 pages) here. You can also read more at

Immigration hero

The following appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the January 24, 2012 issue of the Detroit Free Press.

Immigration hero

I wanted to express my congratulations, as well as those of the staff of Data Driven Detroit (D3), to State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, who was recently named one of the top 10 heroes for immigrants by the Immigrants’ List, a political action committee dedicated to immigration reform. I have had the pleasure of knowing Tlaib for a number of years, starting when she was assisting Rep. Steve Tobocman, who held her seat immediately before her. Tlaib is a tireless champion for the residents of her district, and is a voice for Michigan immigrants, as well as everyone in need.

While we discuss the importance of attracting immigrants, let us recognize the contributions of those already here. A quick review of the immigrant population in metropolitan Detroit in 2010 shows that they are more likely to be of prime working age (25-44 years) than the native-born population (38% vs. 24%), more likely to live in married couple families (65% of 15 years and over are married vs. 45%) and to have larger households (3.15 vs. 2.51). Thirty-seven percent of immigrants (25 years and over) have at least a bachelor’s degree vs. 26% of native born, and their median household income is slightly higher.

Tlaib works tirelessly for all her constituents — immigrants and native born alike. She truly sets an example that can serve every one of us as we strive to make our city, region and state a better place for all.

Kurt R. Metzger

Executive Director Data Driven Detroit

When Demographic Analysis Causes Concern

In late December, the Census Bureau released its latest population estimates for the nation and states.  Since Michigan was the only state to lose population over the last decade, but appeared to be coming out of the recession on the back of a revived auto industry, I anticipated continued loss but hoped for a slight gain.  While Michigan’s July 2011 population was down from that of 2010, it was less than 1,000 residents – 956 to be exact – and was actually exceeded by Rhode Island.  This represented a great improvement over the average loss of almost 30,000 residents per year since 2004.

Since Ron Dzwonkowski at the Free Press and I are always discussing the latest Michigan population trends, I sent over my quick analysis for his information.  He called back immediately and said that he would like to do an editorial for the Sunday, January 1, 2012 edition.  I now quote from that editorial.

The positive spin from the latest Census Bureau report on state populations is that Michigan has stabilized. We still lost people last year, but the outward flow is down to a drip — not even 1% — and while we may never see 10 million again, we’re still No. 8 among the 50 states.  For a few more years, anyway.

But burrow into the data a little further and it shows a troubling trend. There’s an ever growing share of people like me in Michigan — over age 50, well over in my case — and no matter how important we think we are, there’s no future in us (unless you’re in health care, non-pediatric.)

According to demographer Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit, 25% of the state population was over age 50 back in 1990. Twenty years later, it is more than 34% — and nearly 14% of the state is 65 or older. That’s a lot of “institutional knowledge,” sure, but with few exceptions, not a lot of invention, innovation, entrepreneurial energy or eagerness to embrace change. While that’s natural with aging, it also means that Michigan, in short, is growing more of what’s holding us back.

Who cares how many people are here? Who they are is what matters.

Among the 50 states, census data show Michigan ranks 42nd in births per 1,000 residents but 16th in deaths per thousand. So we’re doing better at longevity than reproductivity, and thus turning into a place that’s top heavy with older people.”

Allow me to add a couple more data points.  Michigan’s rank by age group:

Under 18 years – 25th

25 to 34 years – 47th

55 years and over – 16th

 Now, back to the article.

“And compounding the slow birthrate, “we’re just not attracting any young people,” said Metzger.

Well, why would we when the dominant hair color young people see around here is Grecian Formula? So OK, those are the hard, gray numbers. They create some stark choices.  We can’t just let the gray keep growing. We can’t hide it with Grecian Formula. We can decide that maybe we’re too old for serious change, but Michigan, turning 175 this month, cannot afford to be.”

The week that followed brought with it outrage from aging advocates across the region. While I was credited for a thorough analysis, Ron was lambasted for “implying that the older population is the source of our problem.”  Several comments that I came across were of a tone that I wouldn’t even place in my blog.

It was suggested that a forum be convened on the economic and social implications of the aging population, to discuss some of the facts and myths regarding the impact of the graying population.  Several years ago I participated in a similar event in Oakland County that was titled “The Silver Tsunami.”

I welcomed the opportunity to be a part of such a forum, both because I love to present the demographics and because it won’t be long till I join the Medicare Generation.  So here we are:

The Aging Services Consortium of Detroit will present a forum on “The Graying of Our Population” to be held at the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation, 4750 Woodward, Detroit 48201 on February 8, 2012 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. The panel will include Dr. Tom Jankowski of the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology, myself and Ron Dzwonkowski .

Come and join us.  It should be fun.

The Importance of Migration in Michigan

By Louis Bach, Communications

Counties of origin for new Oakland County residents, 2009-2010

D3 Director Kurt Metzger is in the news again, this time featured in a Macomb Daily article covering his analysis of migration patterns in Macomb County. In the report, Kurt examines the counties of origin for new Macomb residents and the counties of destination for those that have moved away from Macomb. Using that data, he hypothesizes about what lured certain residents away from Macomb in 2009-2010. As the Macomb Daily puts it:

Chicago (Cook County) drew 107 of our residents, many of them young college graduates, because of the “cool” factor, according to Metzger.
Chicago consistently steals away young Michigan professionals due to its night life, culture, parks, “walkable” downtown streets, public transportation and close-knit urban neighborhoods.
In fact, the Windy City has become home to certain pubs that are designed to attract Michigan State University or University of Michigan alumni.

Kurt performed a similar analysis for Oakland County, finding that migration into that county came mostly from elsewhere in Michigan:

We first look at the Top 10 Counties that contributed to Oakland County’s growth.  As one would expect, Wayne County, the county that lost more residents over the decade than any other county in the nation, was the largest contributor (one must understand, however, that 12,682 Oakland County residents still moved to Wayne).  The vast majority of these migrants came from the City of Detroit. Counties directly east (Macomb) and north (Genesee) came in second and third.  In fourth place, and the only other to send at least 100 more residents to Oakland than they received, was another Detroit metro county – St. Clair. 

For more expansive explanations of migration and its implications, read the full reports for Macomb and Oakland Counties.

Michigan Movers and Migrants

by Rob Linn, Research AnalystEarlier this month, three of the nation’s largest moving companies – United Van Lines, Allied Van Lines, and Atlas Van Lines – released their annual migration pattern studies. These studies, each based upon the origins and destinations of their respective clients in 2011, are often a leading indicator of looming economic and demographic trends. For Michigan, these three reports offered conflicting suggestions about the state of Michigan’s migration pattern. United identified Michigan as the state with the fourth greatest ratio of outbound to inbound moves. (That is, for every inbound trip, Michigan had more outbound trips than all but three other states.) By the same measure, Allied ranked Michigan third. However, Atlas found that Michigan made a stark reversal from previous years, and now had a better inbound percentage of trips (49%) than any other state in the Midwest. (more…)

Detroit’s Data Guru Featured on WDET

by Louis Bach, Communications

Excerpted from WDET's survey results summary (click for PDF)

Our own Kurt Metzger was featured on today’s episode of the Craig Fahle Show on WDET, contributing to the ongoing series questioning what it would take for someone to move to Detroit. The series is an outgrowth of a dialogue that began back in December, when Toby Barlow and Rabbi Jason Miller took to the airwaves to continue the discussion behind their opposing pro-city/pro-suburb op-ed pieces in the Huffington Post. Luckily for D3, the discussion took a turn for the data-driven when WDET hosted a survey asking the question, “What would it take for you to move to the city?”

Twenty-two hundred respondents later, the results were posted. They come with some important caveats: since the respondents are self-selected public radio listeners, the sample is non-random. Rather than representing a randomized slice of the population as a whole, the survey results reflect the attitudes of those people most engaged and interested in the future of the city in their lives. The survey’s conclusions give a picture of the demographic that finds Detroit most attractive:

The person most likely to consider a move to Detroit would be a single 19-25 year old woman or man with no kids. She/he visits Detroit daily, weekly or monthly, regardless of whether he/she lives inside or outside of Metro Detroit. He/she thinks of him/herself both as a Detroiter and as someone with an urban lifestyle. Better city services, as well as better public transportation and increased walkability, would be particularly influential considerations in his or her decision to move to the city, in addition to lowered crime, better city services, better neighborhoods, better school, less government corruption, and better shopping.

Today’s panel of guests, including Professor Robin Boyle of WSU and Vince Keenan of Publius, discussed their interpretation of the results and their context, including affordability and the structure of the local housing market, as well as the availability of amenities like shopping. To hear what they had to say, check out the podcast.

When You Write About Geographic Areas, Please Be Specific!

by Kurt Metzger, Director

The Census collects data on many geographic levels, and failing to make the distinction between cities and metropolitan areas can create inaccurate or misleading statistics.

We at Data Driven Detroit (D3) take our data and our geographic definitions seriously.  Last year we ranted about Forbes Magazine and their discussion about city crime rankings when they were actually discussing metropolitan areas.  Even within metropolitan areas, they confused metropolitan statistical areas and metropolitan divisions (click on the link if you’re curious about the difference).

Well, another “city” ranking came out last year and we must once again criticize the messenger.  While it didn’t get great play, thank goodness, it did show up in small local articles and the Huffington Post Blog. Men’s Health magazine published a ranked list to help readers find the cities where Americans are the saddest and where they are living with big smiles on their faces.  They called the article “America’s Saddest Cities.”  Detroit came in as second saddest behind St. Petersburg, Florida and just ahead of Memphis, Tennessee. (more…)

Two Pyramids Are Twice as Good as One

by Kevin Chapo, GIS Specialist

Please join us in bidding farewell to Kevin Chapo as he goes on to pursue other opportunities. Enjoy Kevin’s musings on a century-old proposal to build a stone pyramid in the city of Detroit.

An interesting article about Detroit surfaced during D3’s hours laboring through old academic texts. In 1908, an engineer mused about the requirements to build a complete, full-scale replica of the Giza’s Great Pyramid in Detroit. The idea was proposed by E.S. Wheeler of the Association of Engineering Societies, who gave the following as the justification behind his presentation:

Now when any of you prepare a paper for this society it is informed with the best theories, latest results, numberless experiments, crucial tests, exact weights and measures, and your own final conclusions. To listen to and grasp such a paper require alert faculties and close attention. Sometimes it makes me dizzy, and I get behind and am dissatisfies because my wits are not nimble enough to keep up with the theme and its logic and my memory is not comprehensive enough to retain the results. I remember that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”; there that we may have some play mixed with our busy days, I have prepared a whimsical paper that will not require close attention or logical analysis, but rather the free use of fancy and imagination, and while it may bore you to listen to it, it will not tire you to understand it. – E.S. Wheeler, “Plans, Specifications, and Estimates of the Cost of Building in Detroit an Exact Duplicate of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh”

In the spirit of completely impractical analysis, here are the details for Mr. Wheeler’s plan. (more…)