Census shows Michigan grows, still loses US House seat
Michigan’s slow population growth over the past decade will cost the state a U.S. House seat, continuing a decades-long trend as job-seekers and retirees have fled to other states.
The U.S. Census Bureau listed the state’s 2020 apportionment population at 10,084,442 and increase of about 1.7% over the 2010 figure and leaving Michigan with 13 congressional seats.
Apportionment population also includes overseas military and civilian government employees and their dependents. Michigan’s resident population for 2020 — how many people physically live in the state — was 10,077,331, according to the census.
“While expected, it is disappointing that Michigan will lose a seat in Congress,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Flint. “Even though Michigan’s population is growing, it is not growing as fast as other states.”
Michigan’s population grew for decades, from 7.8 million in 1960 to more than 9.9 million in 2000. It recorded a slight decline in the census 10 years ago, to 9.8 million. Over time, its congressional seats have been peeled off little-by-little by faster growing states, mostly in the Sunbelt.
“Those congressional districts are equal to political power in Washington,” said Timothy Bledsoe, professor of political science at Wayne State University in Detroit. “When it leaves Michigan and goes to Texas, it is a reflection of the loss of political power in Michigan and gain of political power that goes to Texas.”
Dropping from 14 House seats to 13 also will mean the boundaries of some districts will have to change. But the job of drawing those districts will no longer be in the hands of the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans.
In 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment that shifts redistricting to a 13-member commission with four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents selected at random among applicants. It was a bid to stop partisan gerrymandering.
Due to the delay in community and demographic data from the Census Bureau, Michigan’s redistricting commission has asked the state Supreme Court to push back the Nov. 1 deadline to finalize the maps.
“Ensuring fair maps and ending partisan gerrymandering is important to ensuring Michiganders have a voice in our democracy,” Kildee said. “That is why I support and have confidence in Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, passed overwhelmingly by Michigan voters, that will draw the new congressional districts. Voters should choose their elected officials.”
The losses in congressional seats could affect Detroit, which shares the 14th and 13th Congressional Districts with some of its suburbs. Those districts, when redrawn, may have to extend further out.
Detroit’s population has plummeted from about 1.8 million in the 1950s to around 680,000. Population figures for cities and counties are not expected to be available until later this year.
But state demographers said the state’s rural areas, especially the Upper Peninsula, may fare worse than Michigan’s largest city.
“Really, there’s a lot of population loss in the U.P.,” said Ren Farley, a research scientist at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. “There’s just not a lot of jobs up there anymore. I’m a little surprised Michigan got so far over 10 million. We are still a slow-growing state.”
Robert LaBrant, a former political affairs director with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said he expects the once-manufacturing heavy southeastern part of the state to lose the greatest share of population since the 2010 census.
Michigan’s population reflects changes in the auto industry, which dominated the state’s economy for decades. Farley, of the University of Michigan, said the industry is still doing well, but it’s changed considerably since its heyday.
“It’s still producing a lot of cars and building new plants, but you don’t need as many people building cars,” he said.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.