Michigan’s First Year of Population Growth Shows Wide Variations

The Census Bureau has released its latest population estimates for 2012 today.  The estimates cover metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas and counties.  The numbers show that the Great Plains and West Texas contained many of the fastest growing areas in the country, including Casper, Wyoming and Bismarck, North Dakota.  Why you may ask?  The answer from Bureau staff is…”There are probably many factors fueling this growth on the prairie, but no doubt the energy boom is playing a role. For instance, the Permian Basin, located primarily in West Texas, and North Dakota accounted for almost half of the total U.S. growth in firms that mine or extract oil and gas, during a recent one-year period.”

The Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas are estimated to have gained more than 100,000 residents between 2011 and 2012.  All four are among the five largest metros in the country.  The fifth one (ranked #3) is Chicago, which gained just under 27,000.

The greatest percentage gains were generally experienced by the smaller, lower ranked metros, among which were Midland and Odessa, Texas; Clarksville, Tennessee; Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin and The Villages in Florida; Jacksonville, North Carolina; and Casper, Wyoming.  The largest metro to join the percentage gainers was Austin-Round Rock, Texas, which gained almost 54,000 residents and held its ranking of 35th out of 381.

Needless to say, no Michigan metros, micros or counties made it on any of the top growth lists.  Nevertheless, there were interesting stories to be found in the numbers. Michigan has a role to play, with seven of its fifteen metropolitan areas1 experiencing population growth over the last year.  Table 1 presents the results for those areas.

Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Michigan Metropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1,  2010 to July 1, 2012

Table 1 Kurt Census

The Grand Rapids-Wyoming metro area2 led all others with the addition of 9,194 residents.  What is more significant is the fact that it passed the 1 million population mark and joined 51 other areas (it ranks 52nd) in this elite group.  Other momentous population achievements were Los Angeles passing 13 million, Philadelphia passing 6 million and Las Vegas reaching 2 million.

The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn metropolitan area also experienced population growth for a change, adding 4,094 residents.  It saw a split in the fortunes of its component counties, with large gains in Oakland, Macomb and Livingston counties, a small gain in Lapeer, and large losses in Wayne and St. Clair counties.  In spite of this growth, the metropolitan area’s national ranking dropped from 13th to 14th as the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ metropolitan area passed it by with the addition of 77,456 residents.

The other Michigan metros to add over 1,000 residents were the one-county Ann Arbor metro (up 2,309) and the two-county Kalamazoo-Portage metro (up 1,681) where the attraction of the Kalamazoo Promise outweighed losses in neighboring Van Buren County.


The largest population loss was experienced by the Flint metropolitan area where Genesee County dropped by 3,645 residents, primarily due to a net flow of more than 4,500 residents out of the county.  This loss resulted in the largest ranking change of any Michigan metros and one of the largest in the country.  Flint’s rank dropped four spots from 121st to 125th.  Its ranking after the 2010 Census was 116th.

A total of 26 out of Michigan’s 83 counties gained population over the 2011-12 period.  They were led by Oakland, Kent, Macomb, Ottawa and Washtenaw.  A listing of the top 15 growth counties is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Top 15 Michigan Population Growth Counties Between 2011 and 2012

Table 2 Kurt Census

Outmigration was the driving force leading to county population losses, seen in Table 3.  Wayne County experienced a slight decrease in its net migration from previous years, but it was only enough to keep population loss below 10,000.  The single county metros made up of Genesee, Saginaw, Bay, Monroe, Berrien and Calhoun all showed up in the list of major population losers.  They were joined by a mix of outlying metro counties (St. Clair and Van Buren), several micropolitan counties (Shiawassee, Lenawee and Hillsdale) and four non-metro counties.

Table 3. Top 15 Michigan Population Loss Counties Between 2011 and 2012

Table 3 Kurt Census

Data Driven Detroit will be posting complete files for all U.S. metropolitan and micropolitan areas, as well as U.S. counties on our website by the end of this week.  In the coming months, the Census Bureau will release 2012 estimates of the total population of cities and towns, as well as national, state and county population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.  You will be the first to know how Michigan is measuring up.

[1] A complete list of metropolitan and micropolitan areas can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.
[2] The composition of the metro area has changed based on the new metropolitan area definitions released by the federal government of February 28, 2013.  See the Office of Management and Budget Bulletin for details.

8 responses to “Michigan’s First Year of Population Growth Shows Wide Variations”

  1. MichMatters says:

    I think the central, most important fact, here, is that Metro Detroit posted its first growth – however modest – in quite a few years. Important because it shows the difference between a metro that has a structural problem when it comes to population loss (Metro Cleveland, which continues to lose population, and routinely posts percentage declines larger than Metro Detroit), and Metro Detroit, which has always been cyclical in its gains and losses. What’s clear is that in just two years, Metro Detroit is, in the next year, to post positive growth over its 2010 Census number. Metro Detroit is going to end this decade with a net population gain, and Detroit proper will in no way lose another 25% of its population. This is good statistical news for a mature region with perpetual struggles.

    The news, here, is that for all the crowing coming out of Pittsburgh and Cleveland – two areas we get compared to, alot – Pittsburgh has been posting tiny population gains since the 2010 Census after DECADES of metro-wide decline, and Metro Cleveland’s population is still cratering. Metro Detroit has some serious problems, but it also has an economy much more plugged into the international economy than either of these two “success” stories, and I think we need to start concentrating on that instead of this concentration on the negative or emulating places both smaller with more provincial economies.

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  3. […] Actually… latest estimates have Metro Detroit gaining in population. Michigan […]

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