Points of View

Population Growth in West Michigan Surpasses State

Alex Andrews

Each spring, the U.S. Census Bureau releases sub-state population estimates for the previous year, which contain new county-level population levels for the subsequent year, in addition to updated estimates associated with previous years. This information allows us to visualize how population growth in our region compares to the state, and even how growth can vary substantially across county boundaries.


West Michigan Leads the State

From an overall perspective, the 13 counties that compose the West Michigan region continued to experience population growth at levels well above that observed across the state. From 2017 to 2018, ten of the region’s thirteen counties experienced positive population growth, with three of West Michigan’s largest counties (Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan) contributing over 80 percent of the growth observed for the entire region over the year. Allegan County added 894 residents in the period since 2017, while Kent County led growth across the region with an influx of 4,555 resident over the year, and Ottawa County trailed with an additional 3,572 residents.

This is not to discount the positive growth seen in other counties, and indeed, ten of the thirteen counties in West Michigan have experienced population grown over the year. On a proportional basis, other standout counties include Newaygo County (which added 567 residents, representing 1.2 percent growth), Barry County (+528, 0.9 percent), Montcalm County (+424, 0.7 percent), and Oceana County (+167, 0.6 percent).



With respect to growth over the past five years, every county in West Michigan has experienced positive population growth in the duration since 2013. While the region, as a whole, has added over 58,000 residents (3.8 percent growth) since that time, ten of West Michigan’s thirteen counties actually grew proportionally faster than the state of Michigan overall (0.8 percent from 2013 to 2018). The leading counties in our region, with respect to population growth from 2013 to 2018, were Ottawa County (5.9 percent), Allegan County (4.7 percent), Kent County (4.7 percent), Lake County (4.3 percent), and Barry County (3.5 percent). 


Long-term Trends Remain Positive

Updating the chart Talent 2025 often highlights, which can be found in last year’s West Michigan Talent Assessment and Outlook, we see that the population in West Michigan has grown by a staggering 10.8 percent since 2000, from 1,450,631 to 1,607,914 residents. This has been driven, in large part, by massive proportional gains in Ottawa County (21.3 percent), Kent County (13.5 percent), and Allegan County (10.8 percent). By comparison, the state of Michigan has grown by 0.4 percent from 2000 to 2018, even while experiencing population gains in each of the last six years.



Future Data Topics

Have you been enjoying these “Data Points” blogs and are interested in other data? Let us know what topics you’d like to know more about on our Twitter @WMTalent2025! We’d like to crunch some numbers that you’re interested in!