Saturday, January 05, 2008

Michigration is Misinformation

Out-migration anxiety is making the rounds again thanks to the release of the latest United Van Lines migration study. As per usual, net population change is confused with people fleeing economically depressed states:

This is Michigration:

David Hieftje is a pipe-fitter in Montana. The 25-year-old left his family in Michigan because, he wrote in an e-mail to 24 Hour News 8, he "had no choice but to leave" because the economy is so poor.

It's "rats fleeing a sinking ship," he wrote.

His grandmother, Shirley Hieftje, is a Belding beautician. She said her grandson "left Michigan because he couldn't find a job that was going to be any future." She added, "We miss him, but we're happy he found something that he likes."

It's Michigration.

Sherrie Gerrits works in construction. The jobs come and go, and the search for stability could take her out of state in the next few years. "My income is drastically reduced," she told 24 Hour News 8, "and expenses have drastically increased."

It's Michigration.

A United Van Lines migration study said Michigan residents are leaving the state at a rate higher than any other state for two years in a row. Census Bureau figures indicate a population loss of 36,000 people.

It's Michigration.

Other rust-belt states are also on the move - New York, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. They are moving to the Sunbelt and out West because of the climate and jobs.

"We're getting hit really bad because of auto manufacturing," said Grand Valley State University economics professor Paul Isely. "The foreign automotive manufacturers, which had been continuing to grow at the Big 3's expense, have based themselves in the South. And we're seeing auto manufacturing grow there while it's shrinking here."

Michigan remains the state with the highest unemployment rate. Since 2000, roughly 87,000 people have moved out of Wayne County (Detroit area), but the population grew by 23,000 in Kent County.

Isely said the net loss is disturbing.

"People are leaving, which results in less money around for everybody else, which results in more people leaving," he said. "And so it's a reinforcing effect right now."

It's Michigration.

I apologize for pasting the contents of the entire article, but rarely is the publication of misinformation so clear. And if the quoting of the economist is accurate, then I harbor little hope for beating back the negative propaganda. Are more people leaving Michigan than any other state?

Using the United Van Lines data, Michigan is 11th out of 48 states (and D.C.) in terms of the number of people leaving the state. California is first with the most people moving out, followed by Texas. Since the states with the largest populations seem to have the greatest number of out-migrants, I should control for the number of people in each state.

What I did is take the number of moves out of state and divide it by the state's 2007 US Census estimated population and then multiplied that number by 100 to arrive at an out-migration percentage. The US average (for the Lower 48 and D.C.) was .07% for 2007. Michigan (.07%) is almost right in the middle ranking 23rd worst. Here is the top 10 list for worst out-migration rates:

  1. North Dakota (.15%)
  2. District of Columbia (.13%)
  3. Colorado (.13 %)
  4. Washington (.11%)
  5. Montana (.11%)
  6. Arizona (.10%)
  7. New Mexico (.10%)
  8. Virginia (.10%)
  9. Idaho (.09%)
  10. Wyoming (.09%)

To give you an idea about the variance of the rates, out-migration ranges from .015% (ND) to .03% (West Virginia). In-migration ranges from .19% (D.C.) to .03% (Michigan). Pennsylvania is at the bottom of the in-migration list as well, revealing the more important story:

Why are so few people moving to the Rust Belt? A good place to start looking for answers is in all the reports and articles lamenting who is leaving.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Dear Jim,
You raise an interesting idea about looking at United Van Lines' state ranked migration data from different points of view. Your point on in-migration with respect to Michigan is well taken.

One missing element in discussions about state out-migration are temporal changes because while the typical Michigander may know several people who live in other states, talk and correspond with them occasionally about their lives, and perhaps read or hear some news about another state, in the main, we have little knowledge about what it is like to live in those other states, unless we had previously lived there some years. Michiganders, by and large, like most people, compare their circumstances today not to the circumstances of someone living in Pennsylvania or Nevada or the national average; we compare our circumstances today with what we once were.

By your own method of ranking state out-migration, Michigan jumped from the 35th spot in 2006 to the 23rd spot in 2007. This could be viewed as but a small, insignificant, unnoticable change over one year, imputing from United Van Lines own estimated 30 percent market share of moving, from 1 out of 445 residents moving out in 2006 ticking up to 1 out of 427 in 2007. Perhaps what is forgotten, by 2007 two residents out of the 427 will have moved, and the next year it will be three, and building so forth. The toll wrought over past years and feared accelerating ahead is what Michiganders familiarize with Michigration and not just one year. My couriosity about the trend ahead lead me to compute the proportion of United Van Lines out/in-migration during traditional year-end moving, and I was concerned to see the percentages surge to 70.9 percent out-going to 29.1 percent incoming for Michigan in the most recent two-month period November-December 2007.

Michigan was once rock-solid stable. It has come unmoored by many measures: housing values, GDP, employment, income growth, number of deer slayed. Michiganders know Michigration is real and not misinformation, but we also understand non-residents don't know what it was once like to live in Michigan, tho' that still is sadly becoming less uncommon.