The Future of the Great Lakes Region

The Great Lakes region—home to 50 million people in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin—has become a fixture in our national political discourse. Many of the country’s social, economic, and political challenges are being played out here. 

After a decade of job loss, demographic shifts, and falling household incomes, evidence suggests that the area has strong foundations capable of sustaining future growth. By building on these strengths, the Great Lakes region can rewrite its Rust Belt narrative as a story of resurgence.

The Future of the Great Lakes report provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out between now and 2040. It also offers policy and philanthropic strategies that could help the region manage its challenges and set a path toward growth and long-term prosperity.

The report highlights four major implications of this research and aims to inform efforts to improve the quality of life and economic mobility of Great Lakes residents: 

  • Build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people, especially young people of color. 
  • Welcome and integrate immigrants and their children so that they move to the region, stay there, and become economically productive members of their communities. 
  • Support older adults’ health, economic security, and public engagement. 
  • Address stressors facing the region’s distressed communities. 

Read our blog post discussing this research. 

Also available (below) are fact sheets for the six Great Lakes states, highlighting recent economic trends and projecting future change.

 

This report was funded by the Joyce Foundation. We are grateful to them and to all our funders, who make it possible for Urban to advance its mission. 

The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine research findings or the insights and recommendations of Urban experts. Further information on the Urban Institute’s funding principles is available at www.urban.org/support.  

These fact sheets are companions to the Future of the Great Lakes Region report that provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out in the future. These six fact sheets highlight economic and demographic trends particularly salient for each of the states in the region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Future of the Great Lakes: Illinois State Facts

These fact sheets are companions to the Future of the Great Lakes Region report that provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out in the future. These six fact sheets highlight economic and demographic trends particularly salient for each of the states in the region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Future of the Great Lakes: Indiana State Facts

These fact sheets are companions to the Future of the Great Lakes Region report that provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out in the future. These six fact sheets highlight economic and demographic trends particularly salient for each of the states in the region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Future of the Great Lakes: Michigan State Facts

These fact sheets are companions to the Future of the Great Lakes Region report that provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out in the future. These six fact sheets highlight economic and demographic trends particularly salient for each of the states in the region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Future of the Great Lakes: Minnesota State Facts

These fact sheets are companions to the Future of the Great Lakes Region report that provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out in the future. These six fact sheets highlight economic and demographic trends particularly salient for each of the states in the region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Future of the Great Lakes: Ohio State Facts

These fact sheets are companions to the Future of the Great Lakes Region report that provides a comprehensive analysis of recent economic, demographic, and social trends in the region, coupled with projections on how those trends will play out in the future. These six fact sheets highlight economic and demographic trends particularly salient for each of the states in the region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin).

Future of the Great Lakes: Wisconsin State Facts

The Great Lakes region is positioned to rewrite its Rust Belt narrative as a story of resurgence. Capturing that potential depends in large part on the presence, skills, and well-being of young people. This brief summarizes recommendations for five broad evidence-based policy and philanthropic strategies to build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people, especially young people of color, and promote productivity, stability, and prosperity in the Great Lakes states. This brief is part of a series that includes a separate brief on each of the five strategies.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Building Ladders of Opportunity for Young People in the Great Lakes States

The Great Lakes region is positioned to rewrite its Rust Belt narrative as a story of resurgence. Capturing that potential depends in large part on the presence, skills, and well-being of young people. In a series of briefs, summarized here, authors from across the Urban Institute recommend five broad evidence-based policy and philanthropic strategies to build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people, especially young people of color, and promote productivity, stability, and prosperity in the Great Lakes states.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Building Ladders of Opportunity for Young People in the Great Lakes States: A Brief Overview

Economic growth and prosperity in the Great Lakes region depends on ensuring that young people remain in the region and attain the education and skills relevant for future jobs. Much of the power to effect change rests with state and local governments, with important roles for employers and philanthropy to play in supporting the workforce. This brief explores why the transition to adulthood matters and how it predicts future economic success, and examines the challenges that young people face. The brief offers effective and promising strategies that leverage funding and partnerships to support improved outcomes for Great Lakes youth.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Strategies for Promoting Successful Transitions to Adulthood, Higher Education, and the Workforce

Investments in education that unlock the potential of children of color and low-income children growing up in the Great Lakes states will increase workforce capacity and boost economic prosperity. This brief recommends evidence-based strategies that state and local leaders can pursue to close achievement gaps in K–12 education and enhance opportunities for children of color and low-income children, by focusing on reading by third grade. We compare reading achievement across demographic groups and offer examples of efforts underway in the Great Lakes states.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Strategies for Supporting Early Reading Proficiency to Close Achievement Gaps

This brief explores the benefits for children, families, and communities of two early education and care programs: home visiting and preschool. For both program areas, we identify how the Great Lakes states vary in their approaches and results. Finally, we offer recommendations for Great Lakes state leaders and local stakeholders looking to improve their programs through increased funding and realize the benefits of quality early childhood education.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Strategies for Supporting Access to High-Quality Early Education Programs

This brief offers concrete recommendations for how state and local policymakers, program administrators, and philanthropies can support the basic needs of low-income children and parents in the Great Lakes states. To support the recommendations, we describe the evidence on how key work supports(health insurance, nutrition assistance, the earned income tax credit, child care subsidies, and paid family leave) promote productivity, well-being, and economic mobility. We also examine the extent to which families in the Great Lakes region have access to these supports, noting variation among the states.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Strategies for Supporting Basic Needs to Promote Opportunity and Economic Mobility

Crime, victimization, and justice system responses greatly affect the life prospects of the most vulnerable Great Lakes youth, restricting their access to ladders of opportunity. This brief describes how crime and justice involvement impact youth development and opportunity generally, and explores the specific crime and justice intervention context in the Great Lakes states. It presents an array of promising and proven policies and practices that have the potential to deliver more safety while reducing juvenile justice and criminal justice involvement and their negative impact on youth.

This brief is part of a series recommending policies that will build ladders of opportunity and economic mobility for young people in the six state Great Lakes region—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Strategies for Reducing Criminal and Juvenile Justice Involvement