Reports

Beyond Free College: How State Policies Can Boost BA Attainment

June 2024

In collaboration with the States Project, Michigan Future recently released a white paper focused on state policy levers that can increase the share of young people who go on to pursue and complete a bachelor’s degree, outside of financial assistance. The paper presents data that forcefully rebukes the emerging narrative that a bachelor’s degree is not worth the cost, and also explores the importance of bachelor’s degree attainment for individual economic mobility as well as state and regional economic development. It then outlines potential reforms in K-12, community college, and four-year college systems that can boost BA attainment. 

Investing in People and Place: An Economic Development Strategy for Today's High-Wage Knowledge Economy

June 2024


In collaboration with the States Project, Michigan Future recently released a white paper focused on a statewide economic development strategy centering people and place. This report makes the case that in today’s knowledge-driven economy, the scarce resource that is most important to a state’s economic success is highly-educated talent. And because young, mobile, highly-educated talent is increasingly concentrating in dense, walkable, amenity-rich neighborhoods in central cities, a state’s economic development strategy ought to be focused on creating these kinds of talent-magnet places.

A New Path to Prosperity? Second Edition

January 2024

Twenty years after the first edition of Michigan Future, Inc. and the University of Michigan’s report titled A New Path to Prosperity? Manufacturing and Knowledge-Based Industries As Drivers of Economic Growth was released, the two organizations are releasing a second edition which contains a startling finding: Michigan’s economic standing has plummeted with Michigan now ranking 39th in personal income per capita among the 50 states.

Mapping and Addressing “Benefits Cliffs” in Michigan

October 2023

Most public benefits (SNAP benefits, housing assistance, cash assistance) are “means tested,” meaning as employment income increases, the level of public assistance they receive declines. A “cliff” occurs when the next dollar of income earned by a household actually reduces a household’s overall resources after reductions in public assistance are accounted for. In this report, we analyze the true cliffs in Michigan and propose solutions for the challenges facing working families.

The Relationship Between Education and Income: Separating Fact from Myth to Inform State Strategy

July 2021

In this report, we’ll share a set of data that paints an accurate picture of Michigan’s strong, prepandemic economy. We will explore the labor market and what jobs actually pay, along with the educational requirement of jobs that pay low, middle, and high wages.

How to use Rescue Plan funding to recreate an economy that benefits all

May 2021

At Michigan Future Inc. we believe American Rescue Plan funding should be used to pivot to a new economic development strategy. One with a mission of rising income for all. What follows is the recommendations of the Michigan Future Board on how to use this once in a generation funding to pivot to a new approach to recreate a Michigan economy that as it grows benefits all.

Four state policy levers to end Michigan’s two-tier economy

September 2021

The Michigan Association of United Ways recently reported that in Michigan’s strong pre-pandemic 2019 economy 38 percent of Michigan households were unable to pay for basic necessities. So in what many called the best U.S. and Michigan economy ever, nearly four in ten Michigan households did not earn enough to pay for housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and a smartphone plan, plus taxes and a miscellaneous contingency fund equal to 10% of the budget.

A New Economic Development Strategy for Michigan: put people and place first to create good-paying jobs

February 2021

The evidence is clear that it’s time to stop a failed economic development strategy that invests state resources in businesses, and reorient towards investments in talent.

In this commentary, first published by Bridge and co-written with Ned Staebler of Wayne State’s Office of Economic Development and TechTown, we argue that economic developers in Michigan are looking at their task all wrong. For Michigan to be successful, we must flip traditional efforts on their head and adopt a bottom-up approach. Talent doesn’t follow companies, it’s the other way around. That means it’s time to invest in human capital – our people..

Creating places across Michigan where people want to live and work

December 2018

Michigan lags the nation in having communities that are powerful talent attractors. We are in desperate need of a placemaking vision that allows all of its regions to develop and implement their own strategies to be places where people want to live, work and play. And it needs to make sure that metro Detroit and metro Grand Rapids are able to compete with talent magnets like Chicago and Minneapolis.

In our new report, we spell out why placemaking is so critical, and what we believe are the most impactful state policies to improve the attractiveness of communities across the state.

Regional Collaboration Matters: How Metro Minneapolis has forged one of the wealthiest and most livable metropolitan regions in the United States

May 2018

A few years ago, we released the first report in our policy series, which explored the state policies that have made Minnesota the most successful state in the Great Lakes region. We decided to go back to Minnesota again, with a similar question. How has metro Minneapolis become the 12th most prosperous major metropolitan area in the entire country? This report explores what we can learn from how metro Minneapolis drives wealth and prosperity in Minnesota.

In our new report, we spell out why placemaking is so critical, and what we believe are the most impactful state policies to improve the attractiveness of communities across the state.

Sharing prosperity with those not participating in the high-wage knowledge-based economy

September 2017

This report offers detailed ideas on how state policymakers can implement the shared prosperity recommendations in our state policy report: A Path to Good-paying Careers for all Michiganders. As with that report, our goal is to offer ideas that will engage readers in a conversation about how Michigan can meet the economic challenges of the future.

In our new report, we spell out why placemaking is so critical, and what we believe are the most impactful state policies to improve the attractiveness of communities across the state.

Improving student outcomes from education, birth to college

June 2017

This report offers detailed ideas on how state policymakers can implement the education recommendations in our state policy report: A Path to Good-paying Careers for all Michiganders. As with that report, our goal is to offer ideas that will engage readers in a conversation about how Michigan can meet the economic challenges of the future.

A Path to Good-paying Careers for all Michiganders: A 21st Century state policy agenda

April 2017

This report is about state policy. It is a reflection on what we have learned from 25 years of researching and writing about the national and Michigan economies. And what we have learned from two long-term human capital development projects we were involved in: The Reducing Chronic Unemployment Initiative and the Michigan Future Schools High School Accelerator. Although both provided services exclusively to residents of the City of Detroit, we believe our learnings are applicable across the state.

The basic conclusion of our years of research: Michigan will not have a mass middle class again until we transition to the knowledge economy that is the path to prosperity in the 21st Century.

This report lays out a state policy agenda designed to connect people to a career of good-paying work in the context of an economy constantly being reshaped, largely by technology.

Qualitative Research Report – Pathways To Well-Paying Careers 2017

April 2017

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation (RCWJF), in partnership with Michigan Future, hired ROI Insight to design and execute a multi-modal study exploring current factors impacting workers’ earning power and career success. Utilizing a series of 8 open ended focus groups, this report follows the paths of individuals without college degrees making an annual income of at least $40,000. Incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the primary objective of this report is to gain an understanding of how focus group participants achieved successful careers and how their experiences can inform policy and investment decisions.

Pathways To Well-Paying Jobs – Final Research Report

May 2017

Expanding on research conducted in ROI’s Qualitative Research report, this report seeks to quantify how market characteristics, perceptions, pathways, practices or experiences impact earning power and career success for workers without college degrees. The primary goal of the report is to learn what experiences and best practices led to and bolstered career success for these individuals and how future decisions can influence these trends. 

Michigan’s Transition to a Knowledge-Based Economy 2007-2014

November 2015

Michigan Future’s latest report provides assessment of the national, Michigan, metro Detroit and metro Grand Rapids economies in the fifth year of a national expansion. Michigan Future shows that what most distinguish successful areas from Michigan are their concentrations of talent, where talent is defined as a combination of knowledge, creativity, and entrepreneurship. In a flattening world where work can increasingly be done anyplace by anybody, the places with the greatest concentrations of talent win

Increasing College Graduation Rates for Low-Income, Minority, and First-Gen Students: Lessons Learned from 4 Colleges That Are Doing the Work

November 2014

Michigan Future School’s report takes a hard look at the colleges that have done well at making deliberate efforts to make student retention, success, and graduation a focus for their low-income, minority, and first-generation students. Specifically, the report looks at Georgia State University, a large, comprehensive urban research university, with demographics strikingly similar to Wayne State, that has improved graduation rates by 22 percentage points over the past decade, while eliminating the graduation gap between underrepresented minority and white students.

State Policies Matter: How Minnesota’s Tax, Spending and Social Policies Help It Achieve The Best Economy Among the Great Lakes States

June 2014