Survey Says: Young Adults Don’t Want to Stay in Michigan

Recently, a new statewide poll commissioned by The Detroit Regional Chamber and Business Leaders of Michigan sought to understand the key economic and lifestyle factors that influence the choices of Michiganders from the ages of 18-29 years old.


According to the survey, 64% of respondents say they see themselves living in Michigan in 10 years, and this young demographic who noted their plan to leave don’t think there are enough job opportunities in the state. Additionally, 26% of respondents said they think they will be leaving Michigan and cited several factors, including their desire to see new places and scenery and better job opportunities elsewhere. College-educated young adults are also more likely to leave than those with a high school education or a two-year degree or credential, according to the survey.


The top factor for respondents in the survey pointed to improving infrastructure, which would make the state better; however, a top concern for respondents mentioned affordable housing being a major factor in deciding whether to take a job in Michigan or elsewhere.

“The first take away from the poll we commissioned was there is certainly reason to be concerned,” says Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Regional Chamber. “Economic opportunity is central to keeping and attracting young professionals, including careers in growing industries with competitive salaries. When roughly a third of young Michiganders are either open to or actively considering leaving the state, that does not bode well for population growth, our workforce, meeting our business needs, and competing and winning in the 21st century.”

This issue is one that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has noticed for quite some time. Earlier this summer, she established the Growing Michigan Together Council, which is examining a big-picture focus on these kinds of issues. This particular survey, published in September 2023, will allow the group Whitmer has commissioned to study and find solutions for how to best retain young people in the state.

The poll of 600 Michigan residents was conducted by research firm The Glengariff Group, Inc. from Aug. 14 to 19, 2023.


The poll also finds a more educated group of young adults are more likely to leave Michigan as well.


“From what we can tell, the reason for the higher educated to leave, are job opportunities,” Baruah says. “They don’t feel like the high-level, challenging job opportunities in dynamic environments that they are looking for are as readily available in Michigan as they are in other states.”


The survey indicates there’s a desire amongst the young generation to put down roots in a place that provides job opportunities and creates a welcoming environment.


It is hoped that this survey will be the focus of policymakers and employers who aim to attract and retain the population in Michigan.


“I think it’s really a necessity for leaders in Michigan to start to really invest in young people,” says Jeremiah Steen, 22, a Critical Youth Theorist. “We must have to get out of passive consumption and get into active production so that our young folk feel invested in and want to stay here, or leave and still come back with the tools and resources they’ve gained.”


Steen is a Detroit native and youth advocate, intentionally resistant to ideas that have historically and culturally stopped young people from holding positions of power, as he hopes to inspire true innovations with lasting impact.


He believes the state needs to foster an improved economic agenda, as he, too, aligns with the data from the survey.


“The cost of living is impacting everyone, not just young people. Folks are going to want to go somewhere that is affordable. So how can we start to make some of the necessities that folks in Detroit and Michigan need to be affordable and accessible. I believe it takes a multi-generational conversation and voting for people who can create policies that can create change.”


Michigan is losing 8,000 working-age adults (ages 18-64) annually to states that are growing fastest in the knowledge economy. It comes at a time when employers are struggling to fill jobs.


“For Michigan to grow its population, especially young professionals, Republican and Democrat policymakers will need to work together as neither party is fully addressing this critical demographic.” Baruah says.


As young people across the state begin to look at options on where to invest in themselves, this survey finds that the talent is here, and it would be wise for leaders across the state to not allow them to feel like home isn’t welcome to stay.


“Talent drives competitiveness now more than ever. If we hope to be a winner in retaining young talent, we’ll need to offer strong job opportunities, safe and vibrant communities, and an affordable quality of life,” said Jeff Donofrio, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Business Leaders for Michigan. “No one political party or group can solve the problem on their own; we have to put aside our individual interests and focus on growing Michigan together.”


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