Midwest Migration

Generations of people came to the Midwest in hopes of finding a better life. But economic opportunity has been harder to find since the recession began, and people have left the region in record numbers in search of jobs or a better housing market.

Changing Gears “Midwest Migration” project is collecting photos, stories, and voicemail messages from former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.

We’re mapping where people ended up, and we're sharing their stories about why they left and whether life is better for them now.

We’ll also hear whether they plan to return to the Midwest.

You can share your Midwest migration story here, and see responses on our Midwest Migration tumblr page.

The Midwest Migration will run through mid-February 2012.

Migration
6:16 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Migration out of Michigan halts, moving data shows

Migration map
Credit http://www.unitedvanlines.com

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A new study by the nation's largest moving company indicates that migration out of Michigan has finally slowed to a virtual halt.

Suburban St. Louis-based United Van Lines released its 37th annual migration study to The Associated Press. The company tracks the states its customers move to and from over the course of a year. It includes Washington, D.C., but excludes Alaska and Hawaii.

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Politics & Government
11:58 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Where do Michiganders go when they leave the state?

Are you leaving Michigan or coming to it?
user dvs Flickr

Approximately 1.7 million Americans moved to a different state in 2012. But from where are people leaving, and where do they go?

A recent infographic by Chris Walker visualizes American migration patterns. It shows Americans are flocking to Florida, and more people are leaving Michigan than moving to the state.

According to the Census data that informed the infographic, about 134,000 Americans migrated to the Mitten State in 2012. More than 175,000 left the state.

So where do Michiganders go when they leave the mitten?

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Changing Gears
4:38 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

“Where Did Everybody Go?" A Changing Gears audio documentary

Over the past few months the Changing Gears team has been bringing you stories of Midwest Migration---about those who have left the region for other parts of the country and beyond.

Tune into Michigan Radio this Sunday at 9p.m. to hear “Where Did Everybody Go?, " an hour-long Changing Gears documentary that tells the stories of people who left the Midwest, and some who came home.

More info at Changing Gears.

Changing Gears
11:36 am
Tue April 17, 2012

Midwest Migration: Detroit native and others drawn to Portland

Detroit native Carla Danley moved to Portland for the beauty of the wilderness around the city, but the city's lack of diversity is a downside for her.
Chris Lehman Changing Gears

If you wanted to start life over in a new place, would you choose somewhere with a chronically high unemployment rate and struggling schools, or one that’s known as a haven for slackers? The latter is one way to describe Portland, Oregon.

It seems like everyone is talking about Portland these days. Part of that has to do with the success of Portlandia, a sketch comedy show that pokes fun at Portland’s young hipster crowd. As one character explains, “Portland is a city where young people go to retire.”

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Midwest Migration
5:45 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Midwesterners are on the move, but where are they going?

Mapping the migration: Midwesterners are moving all over the country--a lot have left for southern states.

Fewer Americans are making long distance moves than at any point since the census started tracking the data in the 1940s. Overall, American geographic mobility is declining--except in the Midwest.

From 2007-2009, over 900,000 people left the region. A lot of them went to Texas

Michigan Radio's Public Insight Journalist, Sarah Alvarez, has been collecting stories from some of the people who left. Alvarez spoke with Jennifer White, host of Michigan Radio's All Things Considered, about what's driving regional out-migration, and about how Midwestern exiles feel about making the Big Move.

Through the Public Insight Network, a database of sources, Alvarez heard from about 200 former Midwesterners living all over the country--and the world.  

"We wanted to see if these people's stories matched up with conventional wisdom and statistics about why people left the region," says Alvarez.

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Midwest Migration
10:44 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Returning to the region after weathering the recession

Name: Kelly Nieman Anderson
Midwest Home: Ann Arbor, MI

Kelly and her husband moved to Mexico City in 2008 to keep him working in the auto industry. They returned to Ann Arbor in 2010. She shared her thoughts about what she missed while she was away and some lessons she learned in Mexico with Changing Gears' Midwest Migration project.

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Midwest Migration
11:00 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Comparing Mexico to Michigan: apples to oranges?

Name: Esperanza Rubio Torres
Midwest Home: Lansing, MI
New Home: San Luis Potosi, Mexico

I was making ends meet by working a couple waitressing jobs, the winter was coming, and I think I had gotten depressed and sort of refused to recognize it. My life was in an ugly rut. After much thought, I threw all my cares to the wind. I sold my car and I quit my jobs and got out of Michigan. It was really freeing and scary and amazing.

I can't give any real reason why I left, exactly, but I just felt like I was done with Michigan and Michigan was done with me. I ended up moving to Mexico with my parents who had decided to retire there.

Is it better here in Mexico than in Michigan? I think it is unfair to compare, it's apples and oranges.I am happier and healthier than I was in Michigan.

I have no plans to move back to the Midwest. But, I miss my friends and the family I left there. I still recall with great joy the beautiful moments I spent there, and the warmness of the people in the city I was born in. Lansing really is a gem, and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't really know Lansing. That said I do not miss the winter-so many grey months where I felt sad and depressed, shoveling, expensive produce and driving everywhere. I really love where I am now, and the challenges I'm facing. In the event that I did return, I know the Midwest, and Lansing in particular, would welcome me back with arms wide open.

Midwest Migration
11:13 am
Fri February 3, 2012

Midwest Migration: Is the grass greener in Atlanta?

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left the region since the recession of 2008.

Name: Conrad Schissler
Midwest Home: Ann Arbor, MI
New Home: Atlanta, GA

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Midwest Migration
9:29 am
Thu February 2, 2012

Leaving Michigan to make ends meet

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.

Name: Tanna Sherril
Midwest Home: Michigan
New Home: Oxford, MS

I initially left my home state of Michigan over the summer of 2009 so I could find summer work. I had spent the entire previous summer looking for a job in and around the county I had grown up in, but to no avail, mostly due to my inexperience.

I found a call-center job in Tulsa, OK. I was being paid well over minimum wage and made a sales commission. After three months, I made my way to Mississippi, following my father. I have since been attending University of Mississippi, and have been working in food service to make ends meet.

I wish I could move back to the Midwest. There's nothing really keeping me here once I am done with my degree. I basically just have to follow the jobs. If I could find a reasonably secure, well-paying job in Michigan or the metro-Chicago area, I would be overjoyed. I miss my family, and I miss the Midwestern culture. The winters are better in the South. But, I've never quite felt at-home here.

This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Add your story here.

Midwest Migration
11:40 am
Tue January 31, 2012

Two snowbirds make a permanent move to the west coast

Harley Sachs

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the 2008 recession.

Name: Harley Sachs
Midwest Home: Houghton, MI
New Home:  Portland, OR

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Midwest Migration
3:47 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

After a reluctant move, finding the right cultural vibe in Portland, Ore.

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the 2008 recession.

Name: Zoe Johnson
Midwest Home: Detroit, MI
New Home: Portland, OR

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Midwest Migration
10:00 am
Sat January 28, 2012

Leaving the Midwest – and the country – to teach

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.

Name: Ryan Brevard
Midwest Home: Kalamazoo, MI
New Home: Mexico City, Mexico

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Midwest Migration
12:05 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Midwestern migrants are putting down roots in the sun belt

Andrew Reed with his sons William, 14, and David, 11.
Andrew Reed

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.

Name: Andrew Reed
Midwest Home: Kalamazoo, MI
New Home: Atlanta, GA

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Midwest Migration
1:43 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Michigan fare featured on California's Sunset Strip

Alex Ozark moved from his home in Detroit to Los Angeles after he ran into some roadblocks finding a job in the automotive industry in 2008.
Alex Ozark

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.

Name: Alex Ozark
Midwest Home: Detroit, MI
New Home: Los Angeles, CA

My parents moved from Michigan to Virginia in 2004 for work, while I stayed for college.

I graduated in 2008, when the economy was just turning down, and people were being let go at the Big 3. I had done 3 co-ops with suppliers in southeast Michigan and none of them offered me a position—very uncommon—due to the current state of the economy.

I’m almost positive that, had I been offered a job by my previous employers or with the Big 3, I would have taken it. But, again due to the market, there was very little available at the time I graduated. I had no choice but to move to VA with my parents.

I was so disgusted with the automotive market that I actually did not want to work in it. I started initially looking in defense in VA and CA. I happened upon my current job, as a Test Engineer at Proving Grounds, on pure luck.

The amount of people from MI in CA is staggering. There is now a place called Coney Dog LA on the Sunset strip that features straight-from-Michigan Coney dogs, Faygo, and Stroh’s.

Midwest Migration
2:30 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Finding a job after age 55 felt like “swimming upstream”

Changing Gears' Midwest Migration” project is featuring the stories of former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.

Name: Mary Beth Hetrick
Midwest Home: Westland, Michigan
New Home: Cambridge, MA

After 20 years with a non-profit organization I was let go as I “cost too much.” I spent many hours, days and weeks over a three-year period trying to get a job. As I was over 55 it seemed as if I was swimming upstream.

I could not find a job in Michigan. In the community I lived in stores began to go out of business. It was a very down economy. I visited my children in Boston and was able to get a job immediately. Better economy by far.

I think it is going to be years before Michigan finds an economy that will work. I do not think I will ever return.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.