Monday, November 16, 2009

Florida Exodus: Where Will They Go?

I'm breaking with my November theme because I couldn't sit on this until December:

Rick Desrochers is leaving. And he's not coming back.

He and his wife are moving in with her parents in Michigan after the couple lost their jobs, their Hunter's Creek home to foreclosure, and everything else to bankruptcy. The trauma of going broke in the Sunshine State has convinced them that when the good times return to Orlando, they won't.

"I've talked to a lot of people who say they aren't coming back," said Desrochers, 39, who moved to Orlando nine years ago from Hilton Head, S.C.

Later this month, Rick and Connie Desrochers will join a migration out of Florida that began before the housing market collapsed and the recession kicked in. In 2009, more than 500,000 people like them will leave. And for the first time since World War II, Florida's population will actually shrink -- by about 60,000 residents, state demographers estimate.

Florida (a tax darling state for libertarians) is shrinking. The situation is so dire that some are moving to Michigan. Actually, the article isn't all doom and gloom. Experts predict that the trend will soon reverse itself.

I'm not so sure. Reading what the optimists are claiming, the state seems ready to repeat many of the mistakes made in the Rust Belt. A better quality of life in Florida, compared to Michigan, isn't a given. Prepare yourself for the return of the carpetbagger.


Mark Arsenal said...

For the life of me I will never understand why things like amount of sunshine and average temperature feature in quality of life surveys anyway.

But then, I'm a California native who's spent his whole life longing to experience Winter.

I often wonder if the greenfields explanation wholly belies how the "health rush" claim that harsh Rust Belt winters were what were driving people south wasn't a bit disingenuous.

Jim Russell said...

I very rarely come across a migration narrative that makes much sense. People don't make moves because of some information (e.g. climate data). They relocate because of knowledge. There is also an exotic factor, like you describe: Somewhere different.

There are Rust Belt cities in the Sun Belt that have experienced dramatic population decline. But the example at the end of the article should make the Florida attraction clear. The guy from Vermont moved to the place of his childhood vacations, where he has fond memories.

There isn't any reason why the shores of the Great Lakes or the Adirondacks can't cycle back into favor. They will and sooner than many expect.