Changing American demographics

| May 8, 2007

Michael Barone (much as with Robert Samuelson) is one of my favorite social/political commentators because he bases his observations on actual facts rather than wishful thinking. He also probably knows more about state-by-state, county-by-county, precinct-by-precinct politics and demographics in the United States than anyone else alive. So when he talks about that subject, it’s worth listening to.

Here’s his piece (no registration required) into today’s Wall Street Journal about demographic shifts in the US and the implications — well worth reading. A few key paragraphs:

This is something few would have predicted 20 years ago. Americans are now moving out of, not into, coastal California and South Florida, and in very large numbers they’re moving out of our largest metro areas. They’re fleeing hip Boston and San Francisco, and after eight decades of moving to Washington they’re moving out. The domestic outflow from these metro areas is 3.9 million people, 650,000 a year. High housing costs, high taxes, a distaste in some cases for the burgeoning immigrant populations–these are driving many Americans elsewhere.

The result is that these Coastal Megalopolises are increasingly a two-tiered society, with large affluent populations happily contemplating (at least until recently) their rapidly rising housing values, and a large, mostly immigrant working class working at low wages and struggling to move up the economic ladder. The economic divide in New York and Los Angeles is starting to look like the economic divide in Mexico City and São Paulo….

Domestic inflow has been a whopping 19% in Las Vegas, 15% in the Inland Empire (California’s Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, where much of the outflow from Los Angeles has gone), 13% in Orlando and Charlotte, 12% in Phoenix, 10% in Tampa, 9% in Jacksonville. Domestic inflow was over 200,000 in the Inland Empire, Phoenix, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Orlando. These are economic dynamos that are driving much of America’s growth. There’s much less economic polarization here than in the Coastal Megalopolises, and a higher percentage of traditional families: Natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) in the Interior Boomtowns is 6%, well above the 4% in the Coastal Megalopolises.

The nation’s center of gravity is shifting: Dallas is now larger than San Francisco, Houston is now larger than Detroit, Atlanta is now larger than Boston, Charlotte is now larger than Milwaukee. State capitals that were just medium-sized cities dominated by government employees in the 1950s–Sacramento, Austin, Raleigh, Nashville, Richmond–are now booming centers of high-tech and other growing private-sector businesses. San Antonio has more domestic than immigrant inflow even though the border is only three hours’ drive away. The Interior Boomtowns generated 38% of the nation’s population growth in 2000-06….

I have left two atypical metro areas out, because they stand alone. One is New Orleans, with a 25% domestic outflow; it was already losing population and attracting almost no immigrants before Katrina. The other is Salt Lake City, which demographically looks a lot like the America of the 1950s. In 2000-2006 its population grew a robust 10%. But it had a domestic outflow of 4% (young Mormons going off on their missions?), balanced by an immigrant inflow of 4%. The chief driver of population growth there is kids: Salt Lake City’s natural increase was 9%, the largest of any of our metro areas, hugely greater than San Francisco’s 3% or Pittsburgh’s minus 1%. Politically, New Orleans was split down the middle in 2004, with Bush leading 50% to 49%, while Salt Lake City, the least Republican part of Utah, was still 60% for Bush.

What of the rest of the nation? You can find a few smaller metro areas that look like the Coastal Megalopolises (Santa Barbara, university towns like Iowa City), many that resemble the Interior Boomtowns (Fort Myers, Tucson) and the Rust Belt (Canton, Muncie). You can find rural counties that are losing population (as are most counties in North Dakota) and, even amid them, towns that have solid growth (Fargo, Bismarck)….

Read the whole thing. Hat tip to Power Line. ..bruce..

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Category: 2008 Election, Main, US Politics

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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