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Posted on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Where are the children? Census figures show growth in Dexter, losses in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline

By Juliana Keeping


Students exit the lunch room at the end of the period at Dexter High School on Wednesday. Census figures show that Dexter had the largest rate of growth of any community in Washtenaw County over the past decade.

Angela J. Cesere |

Unlike the majority of Michigan counties, Washtenaw County has more children than it did in 2000.

But the growth of the child populations among cities, villages and townships here was far from even.

State census figures from 2010 show a 9.5 percent drop in children under 18, meaning there are 250,000 fewer Michigan kids than 10 years ago. Michigan’s loss of children was second only to New York, which has 365,000 fewer kids.

Of Michigan’s 83 counties, 78 had fewer children in 2010 than in 2000, according to census data.

It’s a sign young families are taking their kids and heading out of state, likely for greener economic pastures, experts say. And it means school districts have to reshuffle resources, and the state’s colleges will compete for a shrinking pool of students.

Children under 18 - how the U.S. Census Bureau defines the child population - now make up about 21 percent of the population of 344,791, or 72,953 kids.

A 1 percent growth rate that added 665 kids in 10 years put Washtenaw County near the top of all Michigan counties for growth of residents 17 and younger. Three other counties around the state showed larger gains. Macomb was up 2 percent; Clinton, 2.3 percent; and Livingston got a 2.5 percent boost.

Within Washtenaw County, some communities lost children while others gained significant numbers, said Lisa Neidert, a senior research associate with the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. Neidert used redistricting data from the 2010 U.S. Census to examine which Washtenaw County communities gained, and which lost members of its child population. More detailed information Michigan’s under-18 population will be released this summer, Neidert said.

Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, the three largest cities in the county, all lost children in the last decade. The biggest surprise may be Saline, she said, since the population in the family-friendly community grew overall in the last decade by 10 percent, to 8,810 residents, but the city has 6 percent fewer children.

Where are the children?

Dexter had the largest rate of growth, with 104 percent more children living in the village in 2010 than 10 years ago. Census figures show 1,259 children live in the village of Dexter, or nearly one-third of the population of 4,067. Three family-friendly subdivisions built in the late 1990s and early 2000s may account for the boost, said Courtney Nicholls, the assistant village manager for the village.

Saline’s population grew, but the 6 percent loss in the child population means there are 2,157 kids in the city. That’s almost a quarter of the total population.

The loss of children has been felt in Saline Area Schools, superintendent Scot Graden said. The days of portable classrooms accommodating student overflow and planning to build new buildings have ended.

In June 2010, school buses full of children left Houghton School for the last time; the building closed late that year and the school remains vacant. The next month, the district sold its historic Union School building and consolidated the administrative offices there to Liberty School, where the district also rents space to outside community groups, like a day care.

Planning for big growth that took place in the mid-1990s through about 2005 has been replaced with shedding brick and mortar and making existing spaces more efficient, Graden said. District officials expect a loss of about 60 students next school year, down from 5,333 students.

“We saw this coming about two years ago,” Graden said. “It became clear our previous projection numbers were not going to be met.”

Ypsilanti lost nearly a quarter of children 17 and younger, according to census figures. And that’s been felt in the Ypsilanti Public Schools, spokesperson Emma Jackson said, adding that the decline seems to be leveling off.

After posting a 23 percent decline in the child population, this group accounts for 14 percent of the Ypsilanti population of 19,435, or, about 2,741 children. Overall, the population declined by 13 percent during the same time period.

YPS enrolls 3,786 students this school year, compared to 4,071 students five years ago. Jackson said accepting students from outside the district via schools of choice has kept deeper cuts to the school-age population at bay.

Still, YPS has done some significant reshuffling. Four buildings are used differently than 10 years ago. East Middle School closed last year and is leased to Washtenaw International High School, for example. And programs in more prosperous and populous times considered untouchable, such as athletics, could be scaled back, Jackson said.

In Ann Arbor, the population loss of kids was over 12 times larger than the 0.1 percent total population loss for the city. The child population numbers 16,382, making up about 14 percent of the city’s 113,934 residents.

The Ann Arbor Public School District weathered a loss of 14.3 percent of Ann Arbor’s child population and maintained enrollment levels.

The K-12 district counted 16,536 students in the fall of 2010, an increase of 96 students from the fall of 2009. District spokesperson Liz Margolis said the district draws from a somewhat transient population on account of the University of Michigan.

“We do see a turnover of a number of students every year, but they seem to be replaced,” she said.

In 2010, the district began accepting students from other districts via schools of choice, adding about 79 students. Additionally, teachers and staff from outside the district boundaries can enroll their kids in AAPS.


Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter


Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

&quot;Uh... the families left for southern right to work states where the jobs are (or at least were).&quot; If they are, they are fools. Of the 10 of the 14 states with the highest unemployment rates are &quot;right to work&quot;. They are (note that the stats have D.C., hence 51, not 50) Nevada (51), Florida (49), Kentucky (46), South Carolina (tie for 42), Mississippi (tie for 42), Georgia (tie for 42), North Carolina (tie for 40), Idaho (tie for 40), Tennessee (tie for 38), and Arizona (tie for 38). To put it differently, fully one-half of the states that have &quot;right to work&quot; laws populate the bottom third of of the unemployment roster. If there is a conclusion to be drawn from this, it is that &quot;right to work&quot; = high unemployment rates. Not a very good track record there. Sources: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Apr 15, 2011 : 5:13 a.m.

@Ghost - Your comments are usually much more relevant than this and you know better than to quote meaningless stats. Correlation does not imply causation.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

At the same time, the most prosperous states in the country are the low or no tax states, right? The way Michigan is going, we could become one of the low tax (low taxes on business and the rich, anyway) states. All I have to do is find out how to become rich and life is good.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

@jns131, I understand your plight about education and taxes, but as an Ann Arbor resident who pays Ann Arbor taxes (and gets less for more every year), it irks me when non-taxpayers utilize Ann Arbor schools for their children's education. Your children are getting the same education as my neighbor's but at a significantly reduced cost. How is that fair?


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

If the board votes for school choice? Then it is by all means far and just. By the way, Ann Arbor gets $9500 for my kid to be there. Enjoy the bennies.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

Face it, the other communities are just better suited for young families, why pay more tax dollars for less services provided from the city. Unfortunately for A2 this is just a start, once the exodus starts its almost impossible to stop.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

Do they get theirs stats from public school figures or do they consider the children who are going to private schools or have moved from public to private school due to deteriorating standards of Ann Arbor Public Schools?


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

Since we're dealing with the government, I guess you can never be too sure, but I suspect that the Census Bureau gets its data from the census forms people fill out.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

Kids are expensive, Ann Arbor is expensive...the city has also been courting either college-aged people or seniors - not exactly the prime demographics for children eh? Perhaps it's also that when the level of college-educated people goes up, the number of kids goes down :O) *husband/I included*


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

What TMO stated can also be said about Saline Schools. Pittsfield Twp (17% growth 0-17) also has subs that are in that district.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Chelsea and Dexter are smaller communities which is what most parents are looking for when they consider where to put their children when it is time for school. Dexter and Chelsea have a lower tax bracket then Ann Arbor does. So does Ypsilanti and Willow Run. But you do not see parents putting their children there due to the fact that those schools are not making AYP. Mine goes to Ann Arbor because of school choice. Not because we can afford to live in Ann Arbor. Who can with the taxes on property and everything else going up.


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 12:58 p.m. Do the Scio Township numbers include the Village of Dexter numbers?

muck raker

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

The author suggests losses are from families moving away? How about couples not getting married and/or not having children? How did Ann Arbor lose when Dexter and Chelsea grew? Hmmmm...

Dog Guy

Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

AAPS had the demographic data--ignored it and built Skyline High. Don't worry about the debt--it's for our children!


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : noon

Uh... the families left for southern right to work states where the jobs are (or at least were).


Thu, Apr 14, 2011 : 11:33 a.m.

Well to explain Ann Arbor's losses, one should consider the positive increases (in 0-17 age fraction) in places like Pittsfield or Scio townships where the taxes and housing costs are lower, but where many residents still reside in the AAPS district.