These trends amount to a fundamental geographic shift and suggest the possibility of a transformed political map. The center of American power has moved around the country time and again, starting with the frontier ascendancy over the New England elites led by Andrew Jackson two centuries ago. Lincoln, backed by the Midwest and rapidly industrializing Northeast destroyed the old south while the Roosevelts, representatives of an ascendant New York-led urban politics, shaped the first half of the last century. Later, California’s ascendancy sparked the rise of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and, briefly, Jerry Brown.
Now we could be entering a new era, with people and economic power shifting to sunbelt states, some parts of the Heartland and the suburbs almost everywhere. Since 2015 smaller metros and urban areas have been gaining people at a rate far faster than the traditionally dominant big cities. Between 2010 and 2020, suburbs and exurbs accounted for about 80 percent of all US metropolitan growth.
The pandemic intensified these trends. Last year, New York, California and Illinois lost more people to outmigration than any other states. Demographer Wendell Cox notes that the largest percentage loss of residents occurred in big core cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco. In contrast, populations grew in sprawling areas such as Phoenix, Dallas and Orlando.
Immigrants, who previously headed to the West Coast, the Northeast and Chicago, are migrating instead to places like Dallas, Miami and even small towns in the Midwest. Los Angeles’s foreign-born population declined over the past decade.
Even before the pandemic, affluent young professionals were heading to less expensive and congested cities in search of homes they could afford. Regulations have made starting or expanding businesses in the deep blue states increasingly difficult. Last year, the biggest upsurge in new business formation took place in the Deep South, Texas and the Desert Southwest while New York and the West Coast economies lagged. According to recent analysis by Zen Business, Texas and Florida are now the country’s high-growth hotspots and are also attracting the most tech workers.
Housing, particularly for young families, is a critical driver. As measured by the Demographia Housing Survey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York suffer the highest housing costs while prices in much of the country — mostly outside big cities and in red states — remain relatively low. This has led to growing numbers of people moving long distances, notes the National Association of Realtors, mostly to suburban, exurban, small town and rural locales.
The pandemic alone did not create the relative demographic and economic decline in blue America; persistently high crime rates and the rise of remote work have undermined its economic preeminence.
It’s not just where people are moving that is driving this shift, but where they are having children. The states with the highest fertility rates are all deeply red — the Plains States, Utah, Alaska, Louisiana — while the least fecund are ultra-blue jurisdictions like the District of Columbia, Vermont, Oregon, Massachusetts and, remarkably, California. Much the same can be seen among metros; fertility rates are highest in places like Dallas-Fort Worth, Jacksonville, Salt Lake City, which lean to the right, and the lowest in indigo metros like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, San Jose, Washington and New York.
This suggests that the red states, suburbs, and rural areas will continue to obtain a bigger share of the political pie. Since 1990, for example, Texas has gained eight seats in the House of Representatives, Florida five and Arizona three. In contrast New York has lost five, Pennsylvania four and Illinois three. California just lost a congressional seat for the first time. Today the largest bloc of congresspeople come not from cities but “mixed” districts of suburban and rural voters. If the current trends continue, these numbers will likely swell.
Read more here.
If you’re willing to fight for Main Street America, click here to sign up for my free weekly email.