Michigan Economy


Our Goal: A high prosperity Michigan. A place with a per capita income consistently above the national average in both expansions and contractions.

Our Approach: Identify the most successful areas in the country and try to figure out what distinguished them from us, what assets we most need to nurture here

We found the common characteristics of almost all states with the highest per capita income are:

  • An over concentrated compared to the nation in the proportion of wages coming from knowledge-based sectors
  • A high proportion of adults with a four-year degree
  • A big metropolitan area with even higher per capita income than the state
  • In that big metropolitan area, the largest city has a high proportion of its residents with a four-year degree or more.

To us the clear message from the data is that the key to economic growth is talent. There are no quick fixes, the Michigan economy is going to continue to lag the nation for the foreseeable future. But there is a path back to high prosperity.

The Critical Components of Returning Michigan to High Prosperity:

  • Building a culture aligned with the realities of a flattening world. We need to far more highly value learning, an entrepreneurial spirit and being welcoming to all.
  • Creating places where talent wants to live. This means expanded public investments in quality of place with an emphasis on vibrant central city neighborhoods.
  • Ensuring the long-term success of a vibrant and agile higher education system. This means increasing public investments in higher education. Our higher education institutions – particularly the major research institutions – are our most valuable assets.
  • Transforming teaching and learning so that it is aligned with the realities of a flattening world. All of education needs reinvention. Most important is to substantially increase the proportion of students who leave high school academically ready for higher education.
  • Developing new public and, most importantly, private sector leadership that is clearly focused on better positioning Michigan and its citizens to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-driven economy.

Michigan Future Inc. Research Reports:

  • State Policies Matter: How Minnesota’s Tax, Spending and Social Policies Help It Achieve The Best Economy Among the Great Lakes States – Full report (2014)

  • The New Path to Prosperity: Lessons for Michigan From Two Decades of Economic Change – Full report (2013)


  • The Reducing Chronic Unemployment Initiative – Big Ideas Full report – Full Report (2010)
  • A New Agenda for a New Michigan – Full report (2006) 
  • A New Path to Prosperity? Manufacturing and Knowledge-Based Industries As Drivers of Economic Growth – Full report (2004)
  • Michigan Workers in the Boom Years: Employment and Employment Earnings 1991-2000 – Full report (2002) 
  • Pathways to Good-Paying Careers: How young adults obtain good-paying jobs without four-year degrees – Full report (1999)
  • Connecting the Urban Poor to Work: A Framework and Strategy for Action – Full report (1998)

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