EAST LANSING, Mich. — Lansing and East Lansing have seen small declines in population over the past decade, according to data from the 2020 U.S. Census, even as the population of Michigan as a whole grew by 2 percent.
Lansing's population in the 2010 census was over 114,000. This year's data shows a 1 percent decrease, about 1,600 people, bringing the total down to 112,000.
Mayor Andy Schor said the results were surprising.
“We see more people. We’ve seen more housing," Schor said. "I know that houses are moving, so the housing market is doing well. So, I was certainly surprised and questioning the results of that census count.”
East Lansing's population in the 2010 census was over 48,000. The 2020 census shows their population dropped 2 percent or 838 people, bringing the population down to 47,000.
“We do think that East Lansing was significantly undercounted just because of the high percentage of our population that moves so frequently with the younger student body,” said Mayor Jessy Gregg.
Gregg said she believes the student population played a big part in why their numbers dropped.
“We do know that it’s hard to get the younger populations to return the surveys, first of all because it’s kind of an odd thing, and second of all the wording of the survey said where you’re living at the time and then there’s further clarification about where you spend most of your time,” Gregg said.
Gregg said there are silver linings.
“With all of the complications to do with COVID and with MSU’s student body being largely remote and virtual last year, it could've been much worse,” Gregg said.
Gregg said the decline in population matters because it can determine how much federal funding they receive for their community development block grant.
“We were hoping to come in over 50,000. That would’ve meant a little bump in that money," Gregg said. "I don’t think we dropped low enough to change our allocation, I’m not 100 percent sure about that yet. If we had a decrease in that federal funding that would be significant because we do use that for community improvements.”
Meridian Township, however, saw an increase in population. The 2010 census showed the township had over 39,000 residents. The 2020 census showed an 11 percent increase bringing the population to just over 44,000.
Township Manager Frank Walsh said that amount of growth was just right.
“Eleven percent over 10 years, 1 percent growth per year, really matches where we want to be as a community," Walsh said. "You want to grow, but you don’t want to grow to a point where it’s out of control.”
Walsh said this type of growth is important for the township to keep expanding business.
“When retailers, commercial developments, like a Whole Foods, like a Trader Joe's, when they look at your area they look at growth, they look at communities that are drawing people to the community. They don’t want to come to communities that are in decline,” Walsh said.
Gregg said, while the decline in East Lansing was disappointing, she doesn't think they can appeal it.
“I think we just live with it, you know, make the best of it," Gregg said. "If we had a higher count, in my opinion, a more accurate count, obviously that’s with my kind of anecdotal experience, we definitely would’ve been able to use the additional federal allocation, but if we don’t have it then we find other ways to move forward.”
Schor said in Lansing, they're going to look into the numbers from the census to make sure they're accurate.
“See what happened with the census as the estimates happen to see if there’s anything that needs to be challenged or corrected,” Schor said.