Tag Archive for: domestic migration

Are Big Cities Past Their Prime?

By: Tim Hains
On: Real Clear Politics

New York. Los Angeles. Boston. San Francisco. Call them America’s “superstars.” With mega populations, these urban hubs have long reigned as the nation’s economic, social, and cultural capitals. But big cities have also been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Read more

America is Quietly Reinventing Itself

The future shape of post-Covid America is beginning to emerge. As demographic trends and surveys indicate, the pandemic has helped accelerate large, epochal changes in the nation’s geography.

It has reinforced the already existent trend of population dispersion, with people moving both to suburbs and smaller cities in ever greater numbers. The ascendency of sprawling Sun Belt metropolitan areas, like Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix, has become increasingly clear and undeniable. The 2020 United States Census notes that four of the five counties gaining at least 300,000 people since 2010 were in Texas, Arizona or Nevada. Houston and Dallas acquired far more people than New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or even the Bay Area over the same period.

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Exurbia Rising

Perhaps nowhere is the gap between America’s cognitive elite and its populace larger than in their preferred urban forms. For nearly a century—interrupted only by the Depression and the Second World War—Americans have been heading further from the urban core, seeking affordable and safe communities with good schools, parks, and a generally more tranquil lifestyle. We keep pushing out despite the contrary desires of planners, academic experts, and some real estate interests. In 1950, the core cities accounted for nearly 24 percent of the U.S. population; today, the share is under 15 percent, according to demographer Wendell Cox. Between 2010 and 2020, the suburbs and exurbs of the major metropolitan areas gained 2.0 million net domestic migrants, while the urban core counties lost 2.7 million.

This is less a growth in “bedroom suburbs,” supplying workers to the urban core, but one that serves multiple employment centers and commercial development. The latest edition of Commuting in America estimates that almost 70 percent of metropolitan-area workers now live and work in the suburbs; trips within suburbs or suburb-to-suburb commutes constitute more than double the commutes with a central business district as the final destination.

The urban fringe is where the American dream is now being re­discovered. But these fringes remain widely disdained in academia, media, and the planning community. This was most evident during the financial crisis when there were widespread media accounts suggesting, among other things, that the exurbs would become “the next slums,” the equivalent of “roadkill” doomed by changing economics and demo­graphics. The New York Times even suggested how to carve up the suburban carcass, with some envisioning that suburban three-car garages would be “subdivided into rental units with street front cafés, shops and other local businesses,” while abandoned pools would become skateboard parks. Yet this is exactly what did not happen.

The Exurban Revolution

In the new In the new Urban Reform Institute report, we identified the fifty high­est‑growth large counties in terms of net domestic migration from 2015 to 2019. These areas grew their population at 7.5 times the rate of the country’s other 3,100 counties during this period and gained 1.8 million net domestic migrants. Out of the fifty, all but seven are located in combined statistical areas (CSAs) of more than 500,000 residents. And each of these outer counties are within or close to a two-hour commute time of a central core county. Key areas include Atlanta, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Orlando.

The key demographic headed to these places is young people in prime family formation years. From 2015 to 2019, these counties saw an increase in twenty-five- to thirty-four-year-olds of 12.8 percent, almost four times the 3.4 percent growth rate in the other counties. The high­est‑growth counties also have a far higher rate of school-age children (five- to fourteen-year-olds) per household than the rest of the nation—0.66 compared to 0.43 for the other counties. The highest growth counties have 3.5 times as many school-age children per household as, for example, Manhattan and San Francisco and 75 percent more school-age children per household than other counties in the United States.

This migration is not a repeat of the “white flight” that drove peripheral growth a half century ago. To be sure, during the great mass suburbanization of the mid-twentieth century, many communities—Levittown and Lakewood are well-known examples—excluded ethnic minorities, providing planners and “smart growth” advocates a rationale to claim that single-family neighborhoods are inherently racist ever since. This assertion is seriously out of date, however. Over the past decade, non-Hispanic whites accounted for less than 4 percent of growth in suburbs and exurbs, while Latinos accounted for nearly half, with Asians, African Americans, mixed race, and other groups making up the balance.

These areas tend to be particularly attractive to well-educated immi­grants. The wildly popular Woodlands planned community near Houston is roughly 30 percent Hispanic, African American, and Asian. In Irvine, California, arguably the most successful planned development, a majority of the population is nonwhite and over 40 percent Asian. In the Tres Lagos development in McAllen, Texas, three-quarters of all buyers are middle-class Hispanics, notes developer Nick Rhodes, for houses that average under $200,000. “We have a young population that is looking for larger homes and safety,” suggests the twenty-seven-year-old Rhodes. “These are people who cannot afford Irving or even Dallas but want parks and good schools.”

Read the rest of this piece at American Affairs Journal.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Ken Lund via Flickr CC 2.0 License.

Upward and Outward: America on the Move

These are times, to paraphrase Thomas Paine, that try the souls of American optimists. A strain of insane ideologies, from QAnon to critical race theory, is running through our societies like a virus, infecting everything from political life and media to the schoolroom. Unable to unite even in the face of COVID-19, the country seems to be losing the post-pandemic struggle with China while American society becomes ever more feudalized into separate, and permanently unequal, classes.

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Why More Americans Should Leave Home and Move to Other States

America has been lazily divided by pundits into red and blue states, as if there weren’t constant movement of people between them. Fortunately, reality is a lot more purple — and hopeful — as immigrants, people of color and millennials reshape parts of America by voting with their feet and moving.

These demographic groups are migrating from the big coastal cities to the suburbs, the interior cities, the South and even parts of the Midwest. And in the process, these newcomers change both their new homes and are also changed by them.

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Peak Progressive?

In the minds of most progressives, as well as some horrified conservatives, California is the harbinger of America’s future. Governor Gavin Newsom sees his state as a model, claiming California is “the envy of the world” and the great bastion of social justice. “Unlike the Washington plutocracy,” he boasts, “California isn’t satisfied serving a powerful few on one side of the velvet rope.” Read more