The Word from Lansing: Population Growth Policies Should be Family Growth Policies

A smiling family.

Our state is not growing in population, and that is a problem. Fewer people mean fewer funds for public services that benefit everyone. Fewer people also mean a smaller workforce. We have already seen that post-COVID.

A society that does not grow in population is at risk of decline.

Michigan’s stagnant population is a long-running issue, but over the past year, public policymakers have been discussing how to address it. Much of that discussion has focused on attracting new young residents to Michigan. While important, that does not fully address the bigger picture, which includes that Michigan’s birth rate is expected to be the lowest since World War II.

Policymakers should ask themselves why that is, and what can be done to address that concerning trend.

While many ways likely exist to address it, from the Catholic Church’s perspective, it all comes back to one thing: family.

The Church has repeatedly affirmed that families are the “foundation of society,” as Vatican II put it. As the family goes, so goes the nation and the world, Pope St. John Paul II once said, and the same can be applied to this state.

Public policies that support and grow family life will lead to population growth in Michigan. Not only would that approach help people living here who may think family life is out of reach financially, it also would help in attracting young people who are determining where they want to spend their lives.

If anyone doubts family is an important factor in attracting population, a poll of people who recently moved back to Michigan found that a plurality — 45% — moved back because of family. That same report also cited a national poll that found proximity to family and friends was among the top three reasons for why respondents chose the place they live. Most of those surveyed were young people.

Both polls were arranged in part by the Growing Michigan Together Council, a panel appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to develop recommendations to grow Michigan’s population. The council has invited public input, which prompted MCC to send a letter urging the pursuit of “measures that assist parents — or those who want to become parents — who are facing difficult economic circumstances.”

MCC’s letter specifically suggested elected officials consider funding pregnancy and parenting support services, as well as Michigan’s network of pregnancy resource centers. Those provisions have been proposed in the state budget process in recent years only to be vetoed by the Governor.

Other policies MCC suggested for the growth of families include adoption of a state-based child tax credit, continued expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding access to paid family leave time, and making quality childcare more affordable and accessible.

As MCC stated in the letter, “making it easier to start and raise a family for all people — especially the low-income, marginalized, and vulnerable — is a forward-thinking and long-term approach to help grow Michigan’s population.”

As the family goes, so goes Michigan — and its population, too.