Monday, December 22, 2008

Cleveburgh Population Growth

Thanks to an influx of immigrants, Cape Cod is booming:

[Between 2000 and 2006], the number of people between the ages of 25 and 34 on the Cape rose slightly, but immigrants — most of them young — were the only reason the region's overall population did not decline, according to the report and population experts.

Barnstable County is among the areas in Massachusetts where international immigration has offset migration away from the region, said Susan Strate, population estimates program manager with the Economic and Public Policy Research Unit at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute.

Although some immigrants from other countries are here illegally and are less likely to be counted in census figures, it is clear that they come to the Cape and Islands for jobs and that they tend to be younger, Strate said.

There was almost zero growth in the region's native-born working-age population — defined as 16 years or older — between 2000 and 2006. The number of foreign-born members of the working-ge group, meanwhile, jumped by 54 percent, or 6,668 people, according to the Northeastern analysis of census data.

Most Rust Belt communities seem to struggle with understanding their current demographic plight. There are a few exceptions, even in the Anglo haven of Cleveburgh:

"Regions that value people of different backgrounds tend to do better in a global economy," said Denise Zeman, committee chairman of Fund for Our Economic Future. The agency's research shows that integrating minorities and immigrant populations, such as Hispanics, Asians and foreign-born residents, into the economy and the social fabric of the community enhances regional growth and keeps city populations constant. Areas in Texas, California and Hawaii lead in population growth due to immigrants from Central and South America and from Asia.

Strark County and the City of Canton are actively pursuing a more diverse population and trying to attract more immigrants to the region. But how does this area reach out to immigrant populations streaming to places such as Cape Cod?

The Cape Cod story is one of network migration and serendipity. Family reunification plays a big role in enhancing the discovery made while on vacation. Cape Cod doesn't register with immigrant populations unless there is a reason to go there in the first place. I'm seeing some indication that just such a migration stage is coming together:

Taken together, two reports from the Department of Labor suggested that immigrants were needed to fill the coming worker shortage. The Report on the American Workforce predicted that by 2008 there would be 155 million workers in the United States. The other, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected there would be 161 million jobs.

Not surprisingly Labor Secretary Elaine Chao warned of the "Incredible Shrinking Workforce" and explained that, among other things, the U.S. would need to fill the gap by helping immigrants come to "the land of opportunity for a new start and a brighter future."

Those were the early days of the Bush administration: Chao had just taken office and her department was trying to determine what labor challenges the U.S. would face in the early 21st century. Unemployment had reached a 30-year low by 1999, and immigrants were entering the country in record numbers.

That was before the attacks of Sept. 11 triggered one recession and undermined immigration reform. Now, in late 2008, the U.S. is in the midst of another recession that threatens to last for some time, and unemployment rates are climbing. ...


The Pew report also found that for the first time since 2003, a "significant" share of Hispanic immigrants has withdrawn from the U.S. labor force altogether. The study's author, Rakesh Kochhar, said that among working age Hispanic immigrants who came between 1990 and 1999, 234,000 are no longer working or seeking jobs. This 4-percent reduction, too high to be due solely to deaths, suggests that some migrants are leaving the country.

Interestingly, this departure may have less to do with the state of the economy than a pattern of reverse migration, according to Manuel Orozco, remittance expert at Inter American Dialogue. Traditionally around seven percent of immigrants return to their countries after being here for 17 years. They were already preparing to go when the recession hit, he said.

A recession instead is more likely to put immigrants on the road within the country. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute has found, in a study to be released next month, that immigrants will work in other sectors of the economy and will move to other parts of the country to do so, rather than participate in a mass exodus.

Regional economies doing relatively better than the rest of country could be a destination for the domestic shift of the foreign born workforce. However, I have no idea how this labor force is going to stumble upon Pittsburgh. But if there is a low-skill shortage, then enterprise should take a hard look at this geographically mobile group. Otherwise, they may all end up in North Dakota. Pittsburgh in particular should be planning a strategy to tap into the demographic reordering. Establishing a few pathways of network migration is paramount if the region is to see any significant population growth in the near the future.

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