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More people died in Michigan in 2020 than were born, demographer says

Flickr Creative Commons/London Looks

More people died in Michigan in 2020 than were born.

That’s according to demographer Curt Metzger, who analyzed the most recent full year of data from the state.

“We saw 76 out of the 83 counties had more deaths than births,” Metzger said today on Stateside. “And we’ve got counties where deaths are doubling births.”

Metzger’s analysis showed 12,938 fewer births than deaths statewide in 2020, according to the Detroit Free Press, which first reported the findings.

Metzger says the trend has been building for years as Michigan’s population ages, and the birth rate declines. The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic finally tipped the balance, Metzger said on Stateside. “We basically have been getting closer and closer and closer,” Metzger said.

Births and deaths are not the only factors driving population change in the state, Metzger noted. Attracting new residents, including immigrants, can lead to increases in the state’s population. And the 2020 census showed a growing Michigan population overall, especially in West Michigan, where Metzger says the number of births still outpace deaths.

But with the state’s population continuing to age, and more younger people putting off having children, Metzger says the state should be considering new policy options to either encourage more people to have children, encourage more people to move here, or both.

“The trend is there, so let’s understand that trend and try to figure out, ‘Okay, what do we do about it?’”

Still, the idea that Michigan might have fewer people in the coming years isn’t reason for alarm, said Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State, who also weighed in on Stateside. If the state’s population were growing rapidly, that would also bring problems, Ballard said.

“Any population growth comes with some pluses and some minuses,” he said.

Ballard said during the 1940s through 1960s, Michigan’s population soared, which brought its own challenges.

“We had to scramble like crazy to build enough roads and schools and sewer systems and bridges and all of that to take care of all those new people,” Ballard said.

Rapidly growing populations around the world have put a strain on local communities, and on the planet, Ballard argued, so massive growth is not always a good thing. But, Ballard said the state could do more to grow its population by attracting new people here.

“And I think we have not done as good a job - not nearly as good a job - at reminding ourselves and reminding the rest of the world that this is a great place to live,” Ballard said. “We’ve got all of the freshwater assets, all of the beautiful scenery.”

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.