Monday, March 05, 2012

Managing the Decline, Michigan Style

The Detroit Free Press: Ron Dzwonkowski: What's Michigan doing for its fastest-growing population?

For the next few months, state legislators will wrestle with Gov. Rick Snyder's proposed state budget and devote endless hours to determining the appropriate and affordable level of spending for education. That's well and good; schools and young people matter a great deal to Michigan's future.

You won't hear nearly as much discussion about Michigan's more immediate and foreseeable future, or about the fastest-growing segment of the state population: older people. Though Michigan's birthrate has been on a downslide since 1960, its over-50 population has been exploding. From 2000-10, the number of state residents ages 60-64 jumped almost 51%. Over the next 20 years, Oakland County's senior population is projected to double.

When you're fastest growing population is the "older people" segment of the demographic, it means you have a problem.

A state that's growing grayer (with the possible exception of Florida) is a state that is in decline.

Unlike Florida, it is really unlikely that Michigan is experiencing a wave of elder immigrants looking for a sunny spot to live out their golden years.

Instead, this is a sign that the youth are leaving to seek other opportunities and Michigan is failing to attract new young and middle-aged workers, or to retain the ones we have now.

In short, this Blue state is about to be in the unenviable position of have far too few workers to support the retirees in the comfort to which they have become accustomed and entitled.

As fun as it is to call for business to get on board with seniors discounts and embrace the decline, the state instead needs to switch out of the failing blue state model and instead create an economic environment that provides jobs for young and middle-aged workers. After all, you need them to cover the costs the retiree communities are about to impose.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I had the same thought as you did as I was reading your post: Are those numbers the percentages of the population that is retired/retiring, or are the actual numbers of retired/retiring going up.

While some of it may be early retirements from struggling companies, anyone who lives in Michigan knows that people don't come here to retire in those kinds of numbers. So, these retirees are for the most part already here.

With the storm clouds of "Right to Work" gathering on the horizon, we will see how much the people of this state want to dispense with the "Blue" mentality. Given money and influence (but I repeat myself) of Big Labor in this state, I have my doubts that it will ever happen, even if the citizens voted for it in overwhelming numbers. I'm sure the legal challenges are already written and sitting in a file cabinet at UAW HQ, waiting to be filed the minute Right-to-Work is passed.

I need to get out of this state!