Tired of seeing green-and-white Michigan State flags or maize-and-blue Michigan flags flying outside every other bar in Lake View and Lincoln Park? A new study explains why Chicago is so infested with Michiganders.
Michigan was the only state to lose population in the 2000s. During that decade, the proportion of Michigan State graduates leaving the state after graduation doubled, from 25 percent to 50 percent. Chicago is their number one destination. It’s the same story at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I once asked a U of M grad whether he’d have an easier time finding classmates in Detroit or Chicago. He looked at me as though I were dense.
“Oh, here,” he said.
(Personal disclosure: I attended the University of Michigan and Michigan State University -- and now live in Chicago.)
From the study:
Even with the ongoing rebound of the auto industry and other manufacturing subsectors, Michigan continues to experience a large out-migration rate...Despite the increase in job openings in Michigan, many employers continue to experience difficulty in trying to persuade workers to accept positions there because of the state’s reputation for having a challenging labor market environment.
Illinois and Ohio are viewed as more attractive destinations for recent college graduates; large cities in both states have seen rising employment in occupations that typically require a college or post-college degree in part because they are viewed as attractive places for younger college graduates.
That’s great news for Chicago. As annoying as it may have been to stand beside a Red Wings fan during the Western Conference semi-finals, Illinois is reaping the advantages of a world-class education system without paying for it. The University of Michigan, a legacy of the state’s days as an industrial powerhouse, is ranked 29th on U.S. News and World Report’s list of national universities. The University of Illinois is 46th. Because Chicago is a more attractive labor market than Detroit, Illinois is poaching a higher caliber of college graduate than it produces on its own. (The University of Chicago is ranked 4th and Northwestern is ranked 12th, but both are private universities.)
The free ride won’t last forever, though. As Michigan becomes poorer and less educated, it won’t be able to attract the same quality of professors or maintain its universities’ educational standards. Someday, a degree from Illinois will mean more than a degree from Michigan. Michiganders will still be moving to Chicago -- but they may not be getting the jobs that pay for condos in expensive neighborhoods.