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New U.S. Census data reveal Grand Rapids growth, Wayne County decline

Mar 24, 2016

New Census figures show the Grand Rapids area is the fastest growing metro area in Michigan.

The numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau say the Grand Rapids area, which includes Barry, Kent, Montcalm and Ottawa counties, grew by 0.9% from July 2014 to July 2015. 

Wayne County, conversely, had the nation’s second largest population decrease last year.

The county, which includes the city of Detroit, lost 6,673 residents from July 2014 to July 2015. This 0.4% drop stands just behind Cook County, home of Chicago, where 10,488 residents were lost over the same time period. 

Before this year, Wayne County spent eight years leading the nation in population loss. 

Kristi Tanner of the Detroit Free Press reported the rate at which people are leaving the county is slowing down: 

Wayne County's slowdown in out-migration could signal a stabilization of population losses in Detroit, said Kurt Metzger, founder of Data Driven Detroit and mayor of Pleasant Ridge. Census data show the number of residents that have left the county as a result of domestic migration has dropped from its recent high of 24,122 between 2010 and 2011 to 15,446 last year.

Christine MacDonald of The Detroit News reported on the census data and spoke to Metzger as well on what the new data reveal: 

“It is clear that Detroit’s population is beginning to stabilize, due to a combination of new residents in the core and select neighborhoods and a large, poor population that is unable to move,” [said Metzger] ... “Wayne’s out-migration decreased while that of Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw increased.”

According to the data, a majority of U.S. metro areas saw population growth over the last year.

While the Grand Rapids area led in the state's population gains, Kalamazoo and Lansing-East Lansing metro areas also experienced growth rates of 0.4%. 

In Michigan, the state population increased 0.06% to 9,922,576. The rate of increase is small compared to states like California and other southern states like Texas and Florida. 

The Detroit News' MacDonald spoke to Xuan Liu, the manager of research and data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, about the difficulty Michigan might face in keeping people in the state:

“As the recovery of domestic automobile manufacturing industry entering mature stage and the rest of nation’s economy continues to grow, it could be more challenging for our region to attract people from the outside and keep them here,” Liu said.

MacDonald reports that Michigan's increase is a result of birth rates outpacing death rates rather than people moving into the state.