Downtown Detroit in the Fog. Photo by Alison Stein Wellner

I really can’t recommend watching Roger & Me, Michael Moore’s seminal documentary on the decline of Flint Michigan, during the holiday season.

In hindsight, it was an especially bad idea the other evening. I was watching the movie on my iPad, while my husband was gleefully setting up the brand new giant television that was our holiday gift to each other.

I started feeling really guilty, especially during the parts  when the familes of laid off GM workers were being evicted from their homes mere days before Christmas. I’m totally in Moore’s camp politically, and very much wanted to feel like I was on his side. But a realistically assessing my privileged  circumstances, I realized that at least in terms of comfort, a neutral party would say I’m more like Roger…

All that guilt! What could possibly explain it?

Hopefully you’ve not forgotten that I’m Jewish?

I hadn’t forgotten, but ever since my recent visit to Michigan, I’ve become very interested in its challenges, and particularly those in Detroit.  (That eerie photo above is one I took of Detroit’s GM Renaissance Center, encased in fog.) Hence, my ill-timed screening of Roger & Me, even though I knew it’d probably unleash unfortunate feelings — and also my special interest in the release of Michigan’s Census data the other day. *

So the news for Michigan was not good: the only state to lose population over the past 10 years, and that includes Louisiana.** But here are two important pieces of perspective, if not comfort, both courtesy of The New York Times’ excellent Census coverage:

  1. The state’s 0.6% population loss wasn’t all people running for the border.  It’s a net change, which also means that fewer people moved in.
  2. In the sour grapes department, the state that grew at the fastest rate in the past decade, Nevada, has actually been hurting badly for the past three years, and people are leaving there now, too.

*Who are we kidding? I love ALL Census data equally. I started my career at American Demographics magazine and I covered the release of Census 2000.  Yes. I’m a geek.

** Puerto Rico also lost population, and a greater percentage too. (It lost 2.2% of its population over the past decade, compared to Michigan’s loss of 0/6%) , but it is a “commonwealth”, not a state.

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Alison J. Stein

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