Michigan Future started its work with the question “where do we want to go from here?” Because if you don’t know where you are going, all roads lead there. To figure out what to work on, you need to know where you are trying to get.
Our answer: a high prosperity Michigan. A place with a per capita income above the national average in both expansions and contractions. High prosperity is different from the most often used measure of economic success–low unemployment.
We believe that the goal should be to create an economy with lots of good-paying jobs. A place with a broad middle class where there is realistic chance for families to achieve the American Dream. There are many areas across the country with lower unemployment and low incomes. That isn’t success to us!
Why is high prosperity the right goal? Lets take a look at two states: Alabama and Minnesota. They had virtually the same unemployment rate when we published our last report. So if unemployment is your goal, they are equally successful. But if you goal is income, the choice is clear.
Per capita income in Minnesota is nearly $41,000, in Alabama its nearly $32,500. The poverty rate in Minnesota is 9.5% in Alabama its 16.6%. Same unemployment rate, but a big difference in economic well being. Clearly we in Michigan should want to be far more like Minnesota than Alabama.