Tuesday, December 23, 2008

US Migration Year In Review

July 1st marks the advent of a new migration year, but the data from the previous year doesn't come out until now:

"People want to go to where it's warm and where there are a lot of amenities. That's a long- term trend in this country," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"But people have stopped moving," he said. "It's a big risk when you move to a new place. You need to know that moving and getting a new mortgage is going to pay off for you."

The big news is that more people are staying put and the population shift to the South and West is abating. Relocation is a scary prospect, the information about a new place far from perfect. The best educated will be the ones moving to improve.

The news is particularly dire in Michigan:

The state's decline is rooted in mobility: The rising number of people who are leaving the state far exceeds the number coming into it. The state had a net loss of 109,257 people to domestic migration, up from 95,787 a year earlier and 57,257 in 2005. Immigration from abroad, once able to balance the domestic losses, continued to decline as well, with just 16,627 coming to Michigan, down from its recent high of 23,328 in 2001.

"It's that out-migration. It keeps going -- more and more and more," said Kurt Metzger, director of the Detroit Area Community Indicators System, a local nonprofit. "There's nothing else."

Births rose and deaths declined for the third consecutive year, pushing the state's "natural increase" up. But it was the loss from movers, many of whom left for economic reasons, which drove the state's population downward.

"When opportunities present themselves, people will move," said Rick Waclawek, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Growth's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.

I've commented that Rust Belt states often suffer from natural decline, something overlooked in the brain drain hysteria. So, the natural increase is a surprise. What continues to irk me is the droning about out-migration while citing net migration statistics. I'm not inclined to trust the quoted experts.

Interesting tidbit about Pennsylvania's population:

Sue Copella, director of the Pennsylvania State Data Center, said the state gets more of its growth from international migration than most states. The Census Bureau defines "international migration" as U.S. citizens and foreign nationals moving into or out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

For 2008, international migration accounted for about 40 percent of the state's growth. The only states with a higher percentage were Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia ranked higher than Pennsylvania.

I'd bet almost all of the immigration occurs in the eastern part of the state. Score another one for immigration glossing over weak domestic in-migration. On the other hand, Texas is gaining population mostly from domestic migration:

Much of Texas' international migration historically hails from Mexico and Central America, where immigrants fled poor conditions. But the surging domestic migration into the Lone Star State is now likely to come from economically depressed states such as Michigan, which lost about 46,000 residents between July 2007 and July 1, 2008. ...

... As domestic migration has increased, international movement into Texas has slowed, dropping from nearly 104,000 in July 2006, to about 90,000 the following year. The Mexican government recently reported a 42 percent drop in the number of people trying to enter the United States illegally in the past two years.

U.S. government officials attribute the decline to stronger border enforcement, while immigrant advocates say it mostly reflects the slowing U.S. economy.

Eschbach cautioned that Texas' role as a magnet for job seekers could diminish as the state's economic troubles begin catching up to the nation's.

University of Houston economist Barton Smith said last month that Houston, Texas' most populous city, was losing its "energy cushion" and moving toward an economy that resembled the rest of the country. He predicted that Houston would lose between 11,000 and 37,500 jobs in 2009.
That's the other big story: Flagging international migration to the United States. I suspect the teetering economy has more to do with the falling numbers in states such as Texas than border enforcement. Actually, I'm sure of it. The best border control is economic decline.

Back to domestic migration, are most of the newcomers really from "economically depressed states such as Michigan"?

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