Michigan would become the 26th state to join the Union on January 26, 1837. From then until the beginning of the Civil War, the economy was based primarily on agriculture and mining. The state offered a frontier society that seemed intriguing to people from New York, while the jobs were an opportunity to immigrate from England to provide expertise. Many of the town’s names are a reflection of how the state was initially settled.
What pulled Michigan into the 20th century was the automobile industry. Breakfast cereals in Battle Creek helped to provide some diversity. Then thousands of machine shops opened throughout the state to create a significant industrial presence. The reliance on industries has caused each recession to be felt more than in other parts of the country, but it has also caused a higher level of resiliency to develop in the state.
The pros and cons of living in Michigan are a varied set of points to consider. You can focus on urban living, settling into rural life, or something in the middle. This state gives you an opportunity to drive toward whatever goals you prefer.
List of the Pros of Living in Michigan
1. You can enjoy small-town living at its finest in Michigan.
There are small towns throughout the state of Michigan that let you settle down and raise a family without the typical worries you experience in the big city. Some of these areas are in the southern areas, but you’ll find numerous options to consider if you decide that living in the Upper Peninsula is for you. There is access to three different Great Lakes, protected forest areas, and rural areas to all homes.
Copper Harbor is an excellent example of this concept. About 100 people live in this area of Grant Township, which is right along the shores of Lake Superior. It’s quiet, rural, and allows you to carve out whatever life you want to have for yourself.
2. Michigan provides access to urban living.
Detroit leads the way for urban living, with over 700,000 people making it their how today. The population levels have decreased in most of the largest cities since 2000, although Sterling Heights is an exception to that rule. There are dozens of communities in the 40,000 to 80,000 population range, so you can find the exact level of urban living that you prefer. Even some small towns provide downtown apartments and modern conveniences, which is a nice treat if you like amenities without massive crowds.
3. Michigan’s economy has made a strong recovery since 2009.
The reason why the recession years that started in 2008 hit the economy of Michigan so hard was that there was a monoculture of employment in the state. With so many positions tied directly or indirectly to automakers, having the bottom fall out of the industry led to a sharp decline in opportunities. Over 800,000 jobs were lost between 2000-2009.
Since then, Michigan has seen a fantastic economic recovery. The unemployment rate went from almost 14% to a little over 4%. The automotive industry went from being responsible for every 1 in 6 jobs to about 1 in every 24 jobs. The diversity in the market makes it a viable place for anyone to live.
4. Housing is very affordable when living in Michigan.
The median home value in Michigan is about $150,000. That makes it one of the more affordable places to be in the United States. The average rent in the state hovers around $1,000, although it can be much higher in the downtown sectors of the largest cities. Prices are going up at an average of about 3%. Most of the homes were built in the boom years of the 1950s, but there are some modern properties to find if you’re willing to look – especially out near the coastal areas of the state.
5. The people in Michigan are creative and feisty.
Being a blue-collar industrial state is a point of pride for many of the people who live in Michigan. Their resiliency brought this state back from the brink of economic collapse, even if Detroit did eventually file the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country. Everyone here is stubborn to a point, opinionated, and honest to a fault. They are also one of the most welcoming groups that you’ll find in the country, with your neighbors often being the first to help dig your car out.
The people in Michigan are survivors. They look out for one another. Recent times have dealt them so tough blows, but they’ve come back stronger.
6. Michigan is one of the most beautiful states in the country.
Michigan has had its fair share of struggles, but you will also find a significant list of must-see places awaiting your arrival. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a perennial favorite along Lake Michigan, while the Henry Ford Museum can teach you how the state grew economically at the turn of the 20th century. There’s the entire Upper Peninsula, which holds 29% of the state’s land, but only 3% of its residents. Some towns have more waterfalls than residents.
The coastline of Michigan borders four out of the five Great Lakes, so that means you have thousands of miles to explore.
7. The cost of living in Michigan is remarkably low.
It’s about 17% cheaper to live in Michigan than it is on average in the United States. You’ll have access to excellent educational opportunities that carry this advantage, including Central Michigan University, the University of Michigan, and Michigan State. Places like Grand Rapids are consistently rated as one of the best cities of its size in the United States. If you are a young professional or are thinking about starting a family, then you will find several great opportunities await your arrival here.
8. You get to enjoy Sweetwater’s Donuts and Mackinac Island fudge.
Two of the best sweet treats in the United States are both located in Michigan. Sweetwater’s is an incredible donut shop that’s open 24/7 all year long. You can find specialty selections there, including a cheesecake donut. You’ve got to try it at least once.
You can also head over to Mackinac Island for a weekend as an excuse to pick up some fudge. It’s arguably the best in the world, and you’ll find the treat is intoxicatingly addictive
9. Michigan offers plenty of fun festivals to enjoy each year.
All of the small towns in Michigan celebrate festivals throughout the year as a form of community team building. Options include the Tulip Time in Holland, which is the best flower festival and the best small town festival in the state. The event covers eight days, including three parades, a quilt show, dancing in Klompens, and lots of Dutch food. There are fireworks to commemorate the event as well. You can get outside to see what you can find after you start living here.
10. You can participate in the ArtPrize.
Grand Rapids transforms the downtown corridor each year with over 1,000 pieces of artwork. It is free to the public, and it has been the most attended event of its kind in the world in past years. Over 500,000 people come to the city over the 19 days the event runs. You can vote on which artwork you feel is the best, and the artist who wins the popular vote gets $200,000 to put into their bank account. The work that wins a jury vote wins the same prize, and there are several other categories available so that everyone can have a good time.
11. Michigan allows you to experience every season.
Not everyone may like the fact that Michigan gives you all four seasons each year, but it is one of the perks of living here. Autumn is the best season, especially if you can explore the forests of the Upper Peninsula. You’ll find beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges lining the roads as you travel, and the rural nature of the state means that you might be the only one on the road.
List of the Cons of Living in Michigan
1. Each year provides you with some lake effect snow.
Living in Michigan feels almost like you’re in a coastal region because you’re surrounded by the Great Lakes. Even the large ships that come through the area give you that ocean vibe, and the historic lighthouses can make for a fun week of vacation. Being near all of that water also means that you’re going to be getting plenty of lake effect snow during the winter months. All of the white stuff creates beautiful scenery, but it can also lock down a community for days at a time.
If you live in the Upper Peninsula, the effects of this disadvantage become even worse. Calumet averages over 187 inches of snow each year, and their record high was set in 1978-79 when the town received almost 400 inches.
2. The beaches in Michigan fill up with tourists each summer.
If you live in the Midwest, then the only beaches that you can find are the ones around the Great Lakes. There are state parks and smaller bodies of water that provide some room for sand, but not in the same way that the waters move with the bigger freshwater lakes. Tourism might bring a lot of economic benefits to each community, but it also means the sand is going to be littered with people, supplies, and trash.
When you start living in Michigan, there will come a time when you are going to want some quiet time at the beach. Since that only happens toward the winter when the snow flies, you won’t see much alone time.
3. Lots of snow doesn’t mean you get a snow day in the winter.
Most schools and businesses will not close because there are a few inches of snow on the ground. Even if the temperatures plummet below zero, there’s an expectation that you continue on with your plans for the day. If you’re used to living somewhere like Texas, the southeast, or the Pacific Northwest when you get a snow day for a light dusting, then the adjustment of driving through the white stuff can be a challenge. You might want to invest in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
4. If you don’t like Michigan’s weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change.
The weather in Michigan can be very unpredictable. It is not unusual for a summer gathering to experience freezing temperatures if you live close to the Canadian border. You might end up having a massive hail and sleet storm in July. It has also been exceptionally warm in the state during the winter months in some years where a white Christmas was substituted for a day at the beach.
During the 1982 holiday season, temperatures were in the mid-60s for the celebration. There have been several years where the day hovers around 50°F. Even in 2015, the high for the day was in the 40s.
5. The weather conditions in Michigan lead to transportation structure issues.
The roads in Michigan are far from perfect. There have been several budgeting issues in the state as of late that have impacted how many services are available. Detroit used to be a bustling city, but now changing economic conditions and employment opportunities are cutting income levels from taxes for many communities. Since the weather can cause issues with cracking and pothole development, there are times when non-critical repairs don’t happen. If you ask the average resident what they think about the roads, the answer isn’t going to be a good one.
6. There’s the Michigan vs. Ohio rivalry to consider.
When you look up the pros and cons of living in Michigan from a local perspective, almost every commentary mentions the fact that Ohio is a border state. These two regions are longtime enemies, but the rivalry is more about sports feuds than anything historical. The Michigan vs. Ohio State football game each year is a classic example of how people can be when discussing their neighbors.
If you have family that lives in Ohio or you’re from there, then you can expect everyone in the state to have an opinion about that fact. Even if someone doesn’t say anything because Midwestern manners taught them to be polite, you’ll see their emotional reaction change in your presence.
7. Getting to the Upper Peninsula isn’t the easiest trip.
Although the trip to the Upper Peninsula is a wonderful experience, there are no significant highways in the western part of the state that lead you to the north. It’s beautiful there, with small towns, big trees, and a lot of charm. It will also take you several hours to reach your destination if you live along the southern border. Your best option is to meet up with 1-75 somewhere, and then make your way toward Mackinaw city.
8. You’re going to get a heaping dose of the famous Michigan accent.
You can find a Midwestern accent that sounds like a combination of Canadian and a touch of the East Coast throughout most of the border states. It tends to be a little more prevalent when living in Michigan. The sound is a little nasal, and everything is “pop” instead of “soda.” You’ll see some folks who pluralize words for no apparent reason – i.e., “I’ll take a pops” when wanting a glass of Pepsi.
If nasal tones bother your ears, then it will take a little bit to get used to how people talk when you start living in Michigan.
9. Get used to taking the Michigan left-hand turn.
Once you get used to how left-hand turns are made in Michigan, then this issue really isn’t a disadvantage. The trouble that you’ll experience is with the people who don’t get the instructions. This unique traffic situation requires you to turn right before you effectively make a U-turn to go in the opposite direction. You won’t have much trouble with it when you’re used to this driving situation along the East Coast, but folks from the West can sometimes struggle with the process.
10. Educational costs in Michigan are somewhat high.
The tuition cost in Michigan is higher for in-state students than it is throughout most of the United States. The state often ranks in the top 10% in this area, with the average tuition cost topping over $6,500 per year. That also means the levels of student debt are much higher here if your goal is to pursue a degree. You have the option to pursue manufacturing and industrial jobs instead, but you’ll need to consider the cost of school when you look at all of the benefits that Michigan offers.
Michigan is an incredible state that is still filled with many opportunities. The news stories about Flint or the job situation in Detroit might dominate the headlines, but you will also find plenty of small towns, big homes, and beautiful destinations awaiting your arrival.
If you have a specific career in mind that you’re pursuing in Michigan, then it can help to have employment lined up before you make the move. When your goal is to come here to search for opportunities, then you may find a plethora of positive experiences that are ready for you to grab them.
Living anywhere can present unique challenges to manage. Michigan is not immune to that fact. With its lakes, forests, and historic communities guiding the way, you’ll find that life can be good here.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.