Migration Patterns

3 min read

Prompt mobility and pulling up stakes to seek improved opportunities elsewhere has been an ongoing characteristic of the American people during trying economic times.

By R. Scott Ziegler, Ziegler Cooper Architects

Prompt mobility and pulling up stakes to seek improved opportunities elsewhere has been an ongoing characteristic of the American people during trying economic times. The 2010 census reiterates the impact that economic forces can play in driving population shifts. The migration of people from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West continued, with Texas gaining the majority. Also noteworthy is an intense reduction of migration to states that had historically been the nation’s most flourishing, such as California and Florida. The nation’s population increase of 9.7 percent from 2000 to 2010 is the lowest 10-year growth rate since the era of the Great Depression. The latest population growth delay is due to less immigrant influxes and birthrate reductions, as a result of the economy.

Nevada and Arizona have guided the nation in population growth for much of the last 20 years. However, from 2008 to 2009, Arizona ranked no.  6 and Nevada no. 18, with Nevada having a net domestic outflow. And for the first time in Census history, so did Florida. Housing foreclosures from 2007 to 2009 have been intensified in these three states as well as in California.

Texas has become the rising star and is arguably the nation’s constant economic success story with the lowest unemployment rate of the 10 largest states, robust immigration inflow and even higher domestic inflow. From 2008 to 2009, Texas had 18 percent of the nation’s population growth and the highest domestic inflow of any state.

After experiencing similar employment growth from 2000 to 2007, there have been significantly different employment trends in Texas, as compared to California over the last few years. Texas started 2010 with the biggest monthly job increase in almost 10 years, increasing the employment level in Texas to a record high with over 11 million jobs. In contrast, California lost jobs between February 2008 and January 2010, with a total loss of 1.2 million jobs.

The low-tax, business-friendly, right-to-work state of Texas survived the recent economic downturn surprisingly well, while the high-tax, big-government, forced-unionism approach of California has been a catalyst for major job losses, high unemployment and a net outflow of people and businesses. Disappointingly, as Michael Barone points out in his Washington Examiner column, “the Democrats in Washington are trying to impose policies like those that have ravaged California, rather than those which have proved so successful in Texas.”

The reality of having 100 million more people by the year 2050 will restructure America’s geography with the development of communities to accommodate them. This development will include everything from inner-city infill to new suburban and exurban towns, which will, in turn, create a necessity for industrial and commercial space.

Salvaging the damage of sprawl—the principal cause of environmental degradation—will become the greatest design challenge of the 20th century. An auto-dependent lifestyle is the primary contributor to atmospheric, aquatic and other environmental damage. Our freeways are congested, fuel costs have skyrocketed, environmental pollu-tion is increasing, and our forests are being paved to build roads and subdivisions.

Will all of this growth become a financial burden and impact our quality of life? Absolutely. Throughout the history of civilization, urban areas have been the engines for our social, cultural and economic activities.  Our future urban existence will necessitate developing higher-density growth models that are more environmentally sensitive and at the same time accommodate the population growth to come.

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