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Recent Work: Michigan’s Decade of Tarnish Seen in Census Report

A little break from editing and post-holiday recovery affords a window on the week that just past. Census figures showed only one in fifty American states lost population over the last decade – Michigan. The day before Christmas I was in Constantine, Michigan with New York Times Chicago bureau chief Monica Davey to cover the story, “Michigan’s Decade of Tarnish Seen in Census Report”:

CONSTANTINE, Mich. — While every other state in the nation gained population over the past decade, Michigan shrank. And yet, as word seeped across frozen towns like this one on Wednesday, almost no one seemed even mildly surprised. This was, many here said with resignation, just one last, official confirmation of Michigan’s long, grim and gloomy slide.

“We used to enjoy a bit of a strut,” said Jerry Becker, a welder, recalling an era when Michigan’s automotive powerhouses ruled the world and salaries here felt lavish. “But that’s long gone. We all know by now that everybody thinks of Michigan as a bad place to live — a place that doesn’t seem to have much of a future.”

If any state is ready to be done with the 2000s, it is this one.

Where the nation witnessed economic misery near the start and end of the decade, Michigan felt a slow burn throughout. Cities like Detroit and Flint pondered ways to shrink their sizes to save themselves. States like Wyoming and North Dakota, flush with jobs, tried to recruit out-of-work Michigan residents to relocate. And places like this old corn and soybean growing village of 2,095 people — the self-proclaimed seed corn capital of the world — watched companies, like the soda pop top factory here this fall, close up shop.

More images available on my PhotoShelter archive gallery, “2010 Census Shows Depopulating Michigan for NYT”