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Americans Abandon "Hip" Cities for the Heartland

Opinion Journal commentary:

It has become a commonplace to say that population has been flowing from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt, from an industrially ailing East and Midwest to an economically vibrant West and South. But the actual picture of recent growth, as measured by the 2000 Census and the census estimates for 2006, is more complicated. Recently I looked at the census estimates for 50 metropolitan areas with more than one million people in 2006, where 54% of Americans live. (I cheated a bit on definitions, adding Durham to Raleigh and combining San Francisco and San Jose.) What I found is that you can separate them into four different categories, with different degrees and different sources of population growth or decline. And I found some interesting surprises.

Start with the Coastal Megalopolises: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago (on the coast of Lake Michigan), Miami, Washington and Boston. Here is a pattern you don't find in other big cities: Americans moving out and immigrants moving in, in very large numbers, with low overall population growth. Los Angeles, defined by the Census Bureau as Los Angeles and Orange Counties, had a domestic outflow of 6% of 2000 population in six years--balanced by an immigrant inflow of 6%. The numbers are the same for these eight metro areas as a whole.

I'm sure the idea here was to show that "Americans" -- by which I'm sure the author means "white folks of European ancestry" -- are leaving the cities to the "immigrants" -- by which he means "everybody not like themselves." This is a racist assertion and I'd like to see this migration correlated against things like the creation of new jobs and the cost of living. In Bush's flat economy, people will go where they can afford to live and where they can find work.

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Comments (2)


Did you read the whole article?

1) I find equating "Americans" to white folks of european ancestry, to be offensive and racist. America is made up of many more interesting groups than just "white europeans." White European by itself is racist and predjucial and care should be used in applying it. People from Poland or Lithuania are far-far different than people from France or England, or Portugal.

2) The migrations are about economics and demographics, not race. The outflow from the coastal cities is due more to economic factors than race. It is cheaper to live in the inland empire cities than the large coastal cities. Taxes are lower, cost of living lower, amenities more available etc. These people are also following the businesses which are moving to business freindly climates, leaving behind administrations that are hostile to their success. Truly the middle and lower-upper class wage earners can't afford to stay in high tax, high cost of living areas.

3) Be comforted that the outflow is pretty much anybody with job skills that desire a better life and have the courage to pick up and start over. That desire and ability cuts across racial lines. If the migration was truly based on race the supposed "white elite" that runs a lot of those areas would be leaving in droves. Since they are generally very economically well off they can afford to stay in place.

Paul Hamilton:

Matt: The reason this felt racist(or at least xenophobic) to me is the odd use of the word "Americans." A legal immigrant *is* an American, and yet this commentary doesn't seem to draw that distinction.

And there has been "white flight" before, and it wouldn't surprise me to see that was the case here as well.

One more thing -- it takes more than just courage to pick up and move. It takes money, so some people are just stuck.


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