Livonia, Mich. – April 24, 2018 – “Exploring Michigan’s Urban/Rural Divide” is the latest report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. Motivated by sharply different voting patterns in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, the Council set out to quantify characteristics of the state’s urban and rural areas in an effort to better understand the differences that make so much of rural Michigan politically conservative, and so much of urban Michigan politically liberal.

In a nutshell, we found:

  • Most of Michigan’s residents live in the state’s urban areas, but those urban areas comprise little of the state’s land area. Relative to the rural areas, populations in urban communities are growing faster, have more diversity in race and ethnicity, and include more immigrants from a wider cross section of nations.
  • Both rural and urban areas have wealthy and less-wealthy communities.  While poverty is often associated with Michigan’s core urban communities, with their deep levels of poverty and need, many rural communities have low-income individuals who are frequent users of food stamps and Medicaid.
  • While there are some differences, such as more college graduates per capita, more crime per capita, and greater access to broadband Internet service in urban areas, going by the data, urban and rural Michigan have far more in common than not.

“The 2016 election and the high level of polarization that seems to prevail today suggest that Michigan residents see themselves living different lives based on their urban or rural geography,” said Eric Lupher, President of the Citizens Research Council. “With this paper we set out to quantify the similarities and differences in our urban and rural populations.

“With statewide elections scheduled this November for governor, secretary of state, and U.S. Senator, among others, we hope this report can drive a conversation on shared needs and goals,” Lupher said.  

Those looking for easy explanations will find few here. Both city and country have many of the same problems, particularly with poverty and health care; in fact, much of the data suggest that we have far more in common than not. Some of our biggest differences are obvious (population density, racial diversity), others less so (median age, per-capita military service). Urban residents are more likely to have college degrees, less likely to own their homes. Rural residents enjoy generally lower rates of violent crime, but are more likely to have a concealed-pistol license. Health outcomes are worse in rural Michigan; income inequality is worse in urban Michigan.

The document is full of interesting data points, gathered from a variety of sources. The Council cautions against drawing sweeping conclusions, particularly about politics and voting behavior. Increasingly, the state’s elected officeholders, that are predominantly from rural areas, might be making public policy based on life experiences that are often very different from those experienced by constituents that make up the other half of the state’s population.”

Rather, the research should be useful as a starting point to address the ways in which the state’s population is alike and different, and how those characteristics should be brought to bear on crafting policy.


Download the full report at no cost at


Contact: Nancy Derringer, 734-548-0033;

Related Post

Leave us a reply