Thursday, April 19, 2007

Moving Daze, pt. 2 - In the absence of data gleaned from the perfect prospective trial comparing liberal and conservative governance (as discussed elsewhere), we are left with more questions than answers. In this situation, we can only extrapolate what the answer might be given available data. So you can imagine how interested I was when I came across an editorial entitled "Meathead Economics" from the February 28, 2006 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The latest Census Bureau data indicate that, in 2005, 239,416 more native-born Americans left [California] than moved in. California is also on pace to lose domestic population (not counting immigrants) this year. The outmigration is such that the cost to rent a U-Haul trailer to move from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho, is $2,090 – or some eight times more than the cost of moving in the opposite direction.
Indeed, Census Bureau data sets confirm the universality of these outflow trends, and as mentioned in the April 1, 2007 Chicago Tribune, these outflows - while appearing best in microcosm - can be seen to have regional and even national impacts.
New findings, released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau, show that over the last six years Cook County suffered a net population loss of 88,000 - third greatest in the U.S., behind only New Orleans and Wayne County, Mich., the home of Detroit. Meanwhile, two counties on the far edge of suburbia, Kendall and Will, are among the fastest growing in the nation - Kendall, ranking second in percentage increase (62%), and Will ranking among the top 10 in number of new residents (166,000).

Such migration trends shift political clout, lead to the building of new schools and the shuttering of old ones, lay acres of concrete over fertile land where crops once grew. They help determine how the city and suburban neighborhoods in which we live become more or less diverse, younger or older, richer or poorer, on the rise or on the bubble.
As referenced by the Tribune, Census Bureau population estimates data for 2006 speak to the robustness of these demographic shifts. For example, between April 2000 and July 2006, San Francisco County, California was estimated to have lost 32,692 people (or 4.2 percent of its population.) For its part, Wayne County lost 89,309 people (or 4.3 percent of its population) during the same period.

It appears that exactly the experiment that I proposed has actually been going on (albeit in a slightly altered form) for some time now. Large populations of Americans are "randomizing" themselves to areas where they are able to experience the best quality of life for themselves and their families. The "outmigration" cited by both the Journal and the Tribune is being replicated throughout the country. And this migration is leading Americans out of areas of liberal influence and into areas that tilt conservative.

According to data from the Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2004, nine of the ten fastest growing counties in terms of population were in "red" states and all of them were "red" counties. (For the purposes of this discussion, "red" refers to areas that voted for George W. Bush in the general presidential election of 2004.) These include Douglas County, Colorado, which had a population increase of 35.4 percent from 175,800 to 238,000, Flagler County, Florida, which had a 38.5 percent increase from 49,800 to 69,000 and Loudoun County, Virginia, which saw its population go up 41 percent from 169,600 to 239,100.

A similar result is apparent when Census data on population change for metropolitan areas is examined. As documented in the Census Bureau's Population Change and Distribution, for the period of 1990 – 2000, each of the ten fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States was in a red state. These include Yuma, Arizona, which saw its population increase by 49.7 percent from 106,895 to 160,026, Naples, Florida, which saw a 65.3 percent growth in its population from 152,099 to 251,377 and Las Vegas, which had an 83.3 percent population increase from 852,737 to 1,563,282. The same data set informs us that of the top ten largest U.S. cities, the five that had the largest percentage increases in population were in red states, to include Houston, with a 19.8 percent increase in its population, San Antonio, which had a 22.3 percent increase and Phoenix, which experienced a 34.3 percent growth in its population.

The Census Bureau indicates that this population outflow has been occurring for a great long while. In its calculation of the "mean center of population" following the 2000 Census, the Bureau noted in a report entitled, Demographic Trends in the 20th Century, that over the last 50 years, "the mean center continued to shift westward, and during the last five decades, began also to move in an increasingly southern direction." In its Census 2000 Special Report entitled, State-to-State Migration Flows: 1995 to 2000, the Census Bureau documents what the movement looked like at the end of the 1990s.
Between 1995 and 2000, 308,000 people moved from New York to Florida, creating the largest state-to-state flow in the United States. This flow has been sizable for a number of decades and reflects in part substantial retiree migration. Other large flows were from New York to New Jersey—as people moved to the suburbs— and from California to Nevada, perhaps due to both economic factors and retiree migration. Many of the largest interstate flows originated in either New York or California, in part because of their large populations.
Now I will readily concede that some of this migration is due to things that no politician can influence, such as harsh Northeastern or Midwestern winters motivating some residents to seek a more temperate climate in the South or the Southwest. To be sure, a significant portion of the 238,012 New Yorkers who moved to Florida between 1995 and 2000 may have done so for reasons entirely predicated on climate.

But weather does not explain why 138,637 California residents would migrate to Nevada, 93,699 Californians would move to Arizona and why 66,860 new Texans arrived from California during the same period. Of the top 20 state-to-state migration flows observed by the Census Bureau, ten of them were from blue states to red states, for a net outflow of 853,243 people, while only one – from Texas to California – was from a red state to a blue state. (The 115,929 people who moved from Texas to California were overshadowed by the 182,789 people who came to Texas from California.)

More to come...

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