The long awaited release of final birth numbers for 2010 show that Michigan experienced another year of decreasing births – a trend that, with a few minor variations, has been in effect for the last 20 years. The decrease from 2009 to 2010 was 2.2 percent, as births fell from 117,309 to 114,717. Overall, annual births in Michigan have fallen 25.1 percent since 1990 and 15.7 percent since 2000. If one were to look at 3-year averages, as is often done to account for year to year variations, the 2007-09 vs. 2008-10 change jumps to 2.9 percent, while the 1990-92 vs. 2008-10 change drops to 20.9 percent.
Figure 1 shows the total births in the State from 1990 to 2010.
Figure 1. Total Births in Michigan by Year, 1990 – 2010
Total births fell in almost all urban counties in the State. Saginaw experienced the largest year to year loss at 5.4 percent and was followed by Muskegon (-4.9%), Kent (-3.4%), Calhoun (-3.3%), Genesee (-3.0%), Oakland (-2.2%), Macomb (-2.0%), Wayne (-1.8%) and Ingham (-0.4%). Four metropolitan core counties bucked the trend by experiencing no change or birth increases. These were Berrien (0.0%), Washtenaw (1.0%), Jackson (1.7%) and Kalamazoo (1.7%). The later might indeed be a result of the Kalamazoo Promise. When one looks at 3-year averages, all the counties experienced an actual drop between the 2007-09 and 2008-10 periods.
Figure 2 provides a view of births in the tri-county area over the last 20 years.
Figure 2. Total Births in Macomb, Oakland, Out-Wayne and Detroit by Year, 1990 – 2010
While all four areas show a decreasing trend over the period, particularly since the middle of the last decade, the degree of loss differs a great deal. Comparing 3-year averages for the periods 1990-92 and 2008-10, we find the following:
Macomb County -8.2%
Oakland County -19.1%
Out-Wayne County -16.7%
Detroit City -50.9%
Macomb County has experienced the smallest decrease, but a decrease nonetheless, in spite of its large overall population increase over the last two decades. Oakland County experienced almost no growth over the last decade, due to outmigration and a significant drop in births. Out-Wayne County’s drop has not been as great as Oakland’s, due to a younger population overall, due in great part to immigration, and growth in the western and southern suburbs. And finally there is Detroit which has seen its birth totals drop by half as many young families left the city and the birth rate decreased.
Birth trends are an important component of population change for any geographic area. When births are decreasing there is little chance that the overall population will be growing. In addition, school systems cannot afford to maintain their infrastructure in light of decreasing enrollment on the horizon.
We can take some solace in the fact that the 2009-10 decrease was somewhat less than the two prior years. If recent economic trends continue their positive movement; if the Governor’s efforts to attract immigrants begins to show success; and if our metropolitan regions can begin to develop shared visions that emphasize strong central cities, Michigan will begin to attract the young, educated workforce that will both reinvent Michigan and begin to lay down roots that will result in a birth rebound.