Blog: John Bebow

John Bebow is executive director of the Center for Michigan. Before that he spent 16 years working as an investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, and Detroit News and helped found and serve as editor-in-chief of John will be writing about how we can better provide for Michigan's future. 

Post No. 3

POP QUIZ: Twenty questions about Michigan and its future 
By John Bebow, Executive Director The Center for Michigan 

If a candidate for governor or state legislature came knocking at your door, what would you have to say? What tough question would you ask? What answers might sway your vote?  

Among the things we do at the Center for Michigan is strive to educate voters, to distribute facts and figures about where Michigan stands so that we citizens have a more informed playbook when we go to the polls.  

So, what do you know about your state? Here’s a quick Michigan pop quiz divided into three subjects: 

  1. Our Workforce: Who We Are, What We Do, and What We Earn
  2. Our Public Purse: Michigan’s State Budget Priorities
  3. Our Politics: Who’s Running the Show

Correct answers are at the bottom. Give yourself a grade: 

  • 16-20 correct. Fantastic! Have you thought about running for office?
  • 11-15 correct. Not bad. Make sure your vote in the next election.
  • 10 or fewer correct. Maybe you need more newspaper and less SportsCenter?


1. Where does Michigan rank in Forbes’ 2007 list of best states for business? 

    1. 5th
    2. 19th
    3. 31st
    4. 46th

2. What percentage of Michigan young people say they would leave Michigan if
    they could?

    1. 1 out of 10
    2. 3 out of 10
    3. 7 out of 10
    4. 9 out of 10

3. Only eight of Michigan's 83 counties showed an increase in the population of
    25 to 34 year olds between 1990 and 2000.  What one thing did those
    counties have in common?

    1. Much higher than average workforce in “new economy” fields like health care, technology, and consulting.
    2. Large new correctional institutions
    3. Great Lakes shoreline
    4. A state university

4. If you are a Michigan worker with a high-school diploma but no college education, what happened to your wages (adjusted for inflation) between 1979 and 2000? 

      A. They increased by about 23%.
B.  They increased by about 11%.
C.  They remained almost exactly unchanged.
D.  They fell by about 9%. 

5. In Michigan in 1979, the median weekly wage for a college graduate was about 
   46% higher than the median weekly wage for a person with only a high-school
   diploma.This gap between college wages and high-school wages grew between
   1979 and 2000.  How large was the gap in 2000? 

      A.   About 48%
B.   About 79%.
C.   About 106%. 
D.   About 133%. 

6. How many students are currently enrolled full-time as undergrads in a 
   Michigan public university or community college? 

      A. 25,000
      B. 75,000
      C. 150,000
      D. 300,000 

7. How many high-tech “New Economy” jobs did Michigan add from 2002-2006? 

      A. None.
      B. 10,000
      C. 125,000
      D. 500,000 

8. How much in student loans did Michigan university students take out in 2005? 

    1. $20 million
    2. $50 million
    3. $500 million
    4. $1 billion


9. In 1980, if we include all departments other than the prison system, Michigan’s state government employed about 65,000 people. How many non-prison employees were there in 2005?  

      A.   65,000
      B.   54,000
      C.   45,000
      D.   36,000 
10. In 1970, the state prison system employed about 2000 people. How many 
      did the prison system employ in 2005? 

      A.   22,000
      B.   17,000
      C.   11,000
      D.     5,000 

11. In 1980, about 60% of the day-to-day operations of Michigan’s 15 state-
     supported universities were paid for by the state.  About what percentage is
     paid for by the state now? 

      A.  About 60%.
      B.  About 45%.
      C.  About 30%.
      D.  About 15%. 

12. What percentage of the world’s fresh water supply surrounds Michigan? 

    1. 2 %
    2. 18 %
    3. 25 %
    4. 35 %
13. What’s been the trend in state general fund spending on the Michigan
      Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of
      Environmental Quality since 2001? 
    1. Spending has doubled
    2. Spending is up 10 percent
    3. Spending is down 10 percent
    4. Spending is down more than 60 percent


14. The governor’s panel of bipartisan emergency financial advisors made 9
      major reform recommendations for state government earlier this year. How
      many of those were fully adopted as of the midnight balanced budget
      solution of October 1?

    1. None.
    2. Two.
    3. Four.
    4. All Nine.
15. How many combined years of legislative experience do Michigan’s top three
     elected officials (governor, House speaker, Senate majority leader) have
     right now? 
    1. 4
    2. 12
    3. 16
    4. 46  

16. How many combined years of legislative experience did the three leaders
      holding those posts have in 1992, the year Michigan passed term limits?

    1. 4
    2. 12
    3. 16
    4. 46.
17. How many hours was the “full time” state House of Representatives in
     session, in total, for July and August as the budget crisis loomed? 
    1. 46.5 hours
    2. 99 hours
    3. 124.5 hours
    4. 200 hours

18. How many state Senate races last year were truly competitive (decided by
     fewer than two percentage points)? 

    1. None.
    2. 4 out of 38
    3. 20 out of 38
    4. 30 out of 38
19. What percentage of registered Michigan voters who know which party
      controls the Michigan Senate?
    1. 10 %
    2. 33 %
    3. 50 %
    4. 80 %
20. According to a poll taken in the summer of 2007, what percentage of 
     Michigan voters younger than 40 think the state is "moving in the wrong

          A.   51%.
          B.   66%
          C.   83%.
          D.   95%. 


(A note about sources: These questions were compiled for the Council of Michigan Foundations by MSU Professor of Economics Charles Ballard, Public Sector Consultants President Bill Rustem, and Center for Michigan Executive Director John Bebow) 

1. D. 46th, with low rankings driven by economic climate, cost of doing business, and growth prospects. (Source: Forbes Magazine) 

2. C. 7 out of 10. (Source: Brogan & Partners “Mood of Michigan” poll taken Sept-Oct. 2007) 

3. B. Large new correctional institutions.  The remaining four--Monroe, Benzie, Cheboygan and Livingston--were the only of Michigan's 83 counties that experienced a "true" increase in that important cohort.  (Source:  Michigan Economic Development Corporation. 

4. D. Wages for high school grads with no college fell by about 9%. (Source: Rebecca M. Blank, “The Less-Skilled Labor Market in Michigan”, based on data from the Current Population Survey.) 

5. C. About 106%. (Source: Rebecca M. Blank, “The Less-Skilled Labor Market in Michigan”, based on data from the Current Population Survey.) 

6. D. More than 300,000, an all-time record. It’s enough to fill Michigan Stadium three times. (Source: House Fiscal Agency)  

7. C. 125,000. (Source: Michigan’s Emerging Economy, 2006, by Public Policy Associates)  

8. D. Just under $1 billion dollars, an increase of 52 percent in four years.   (Source: House Fiscal Agency) 

9. D. 36,000 (Source: State of Michigan, Department of Civil Service, Annual Workforce Report, selected years) 

10. B. 17,000. (Source: State of Michigan, Department of Civil Service, Annual Workforce Report, selected years) 

11. C. About 30%. (Source: House Fiscal Agency.) 

12. B. The Great Lakes contain 18 percent of the world’s fresh water (or about 90 percent of the fresh water supply of the United States). (Source: Michigan in Brief) 

13. D: General fund spending on the DNR and DEQ is down 62 percent since 2001.

(Source: Michigan League of Conservation Voters) 

14. A. None were completely adopted. Two of the nine – public sector benefits and government cooperation – were partially dealt with. (Source: EFAP report) 

15. C. 16. (Michigan legislature biographies) 

16. D. 46. (Michigan legislature biographies) 

17. A. 46.5 hours. (Source: MIRS) 

18. B. Four out of 38. The rest were pretty much “safe seats” for one party or the other. (Source: Michigan Bureau of Elections) 

19. B. 33 percent. (Source: September 2007 poll by Inside Michigan Politics) 

20. D. 95%. (Source: Detroit News/WXYZ poll, conducted by EPIC-MRA.)