Michael W. Young was born in Miami, Florida, on March 28, 1949. His father worked for Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation managing aluminum ingot sales for the south eastern United States. His mother worked for a law firm as a secretary. Despite no history of science or medicine in either of their backgrounds, Young’s parents were supportive of his interest in science and provided the means of scientific exploration through microscopes and telescopes. They lived in an environment close to private zoos, where occasionally some of the animals would escape into their backyard and spark Young's scientific interest.
Michael Young grew up in and around Miami, Florida. Then, his family moved near Dallas, Texas, where he graduated from L.D. Bell High School. In his early teens, Michael’s parents gifted him one of Darwin’s books on evolution and biological mysteries. The book described biological clocks as the reason why a strange plant he had seen years earlier produced flowers that closed during the day and opened at night. The location and composition of these clocks were unknown, and this sparked Michael Young’s interest at an early age.
While working as a graduate student at the University of Texas, Michael Young met his future wife Laurel Eckhardt. Later, both moved to Stanford University, where Michael worked as a postdoctoral fellow and Laurel pursued her PhD with Len Herzenberg. Today, she is a Professor of Biology at Hunter College. Michael and Laurel still work close to each other. Together, they have two daughters, Natalie and Arissa.