Oakland County Loses Population for Second Year in a Row
(Kurt Metzger, April 3, 2023)
Oakland County, MI – While last decade brought slow, steady population growth to Oakland County (up 71,289 or 5.9 percent between 2010 and 2020), the first two years of this decade have brought small loses according to new estimates released by the Census Bureau on March 30. [Figure 1] 2022’s estimate of 1,269,431 is almost 5,000 less than the 2020 Census count.
Population estimates utilize four major data components: Births, Deaths, Immigration and Domestic Migration. When Deaths and subtracted from Births, the result is Natural Increase (or Decrease). When Immigration and Domestic Migration are added to one another, the result Is Net Migration.
Figure 2 provides a picture of births, deaths and natural increase/decrease since 2010. While births had decreased and deaths increased during the last decade, the pandemic that began in March 2020 accelerated both trends, resulting in the first year of natural decrease between 2020 and 2021 (a loss of 590 residents). 2022 saw an increase in births back to a level just below that in 2019. However, deaths also increased again in 2022, resulting in a second year of natural decrease (down 494 persons).
Figure 3 illustrates the migration components of the formula. Immigration totals, which were fairly consistent between 2010 and 2017, decreased in 2018 and reached their low point in 2021. With immigration increasing nationally, Oakland County experienced a return to totals seen between 2010 and 2017 (up 175 percent over 2021). While this was good news for the county, the gain was more than wiped out by the 160 percent increase in domestic out-migration (residents leaving the county for other parts of Michigan and other states). Net out-migration has been the theme since 2014, but 2022’s total of 7,239 residents easily surpassed any annual loss measured since 2010.
What does the future hold for the 4 components of Oakland County’s population?
Births will likely increase over the next few years as we put the pandemic in the rear view mirror. However, Oakland County’s age structure and national trends of decreasing birth rates will maintain birth numbers in a narrow window of minimal growth.
Deaths are expected to decrease from their inflated pandemic levels, but still return to their steady increase due to the county’s aging population.
Immigration returned to recent historical levels in 2022. While it is unlikely that these numbers will change anytime soon, there is an opportunity for county officials to prioritize efforts around immigrant attraction. Plans need to start immediately because states and communities across the country will be developing their attraction plans as well.
Domestic Migration has become the most important component of population change for Oakland County, as it has for the State of Michigan and counties and communities throughout. The 2022 net loss was particularly painful for the county, uniquely affected by students returning to reopened universities, in addition to the usual trends of young people leaving for education and jobs and older residents retiring to other parts of Michigan, as well as Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas, etc. While the returning student component will not factor in going forward, all the other reasons for leaving will still be in play, and net out-migration will likely continue.
Visit the Data-Based Stories Archives on Oakland County Times for stories on voter turnout, population shifts, Dogs of Oakland County, and other statistics-related stories, thanks to Data Expert Kurt Metzger.