Monday, March 28, 2011

Sun Belt Counties Dying

Texas is dying. Usually, such disparaging terms are reserved for Rust Belt states. The statistics tell the story:

"Texas is in many ways two states," said Lloyd Potter, a demographer at the Texas Data Center. "When we look at the counties west of I-35, the bulk of them, probably 60 of them are losing population. It's becoming sparse in the west and that is going to become even more common."

Wait, it gets weirder:

But natural decrease also occurs in rapidly growing counties in the Sun Belt, Johnson said, where large communities of retirees skew population statistics. In Charlotte County, Fla., on the Gulf Coast, deaths have outpaced births for 42 years. Between 2000 and 20009, almost twice as many people died (20,328) as were born (10,231). What's striking is that Charlotte County was growing at the same time. It gained 15,000 new residents overall because 25,000 new residents moved in.

That's right. A county with a growing population is actually dying. Keep that in mind the next time Forbes throws dirt on your city.

I'm not done. I've got more ironic population data. Boom goes New Haven:

A presentation by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which you can view here, recently discussed the lessons that cities such as Hartford and Springfield can learn from so-called "resurgent cities" such as New Haven, Grand Rapids and Jersey City. (There's also a podcast available from a similar talk by the FRB at Community Intersections).

That's from a blog post titled, "Census 2010: New Haven Has Fastest Growth Rate Among Major Northeastern U.S. Cities". For those of you who don't know, "resurgent" Grand Rapids is in left-for-dead Michigan. How could a city in that state be growing?

I'm still not finished. I saved the best for last. Much of Rust Belt New York is celebrating the 2010 US Census:

In a stunning surprise to government leaders -- who expected new losses -- Central New York’s population grew by 1.4 percent in the past decade to reach an all-time high of 742,603 in the four-county Syracuse area, the 2010 Census showed.

Central New York is at an "all-time high" in population. My old haunt Schenectady gained 7%. That's serious Rust Belt country. People vote with their feet. Obviously, they prefer high taxes and a lousy climate. Go figure.

While everyone else is still celebrating the Texas way and the power of right-to-work to attract jobs, the demographic revolution is more evident in the Capital Region of New York State:

Locally, Albany County's Hispanic population rose 64.3 percent to 14,917 in 2010; Rensselaer County by 88.53 percent to 6,080; Saratoga County by 86.27 percent to 5,279; and Schenectady County by 90.27 percent to 8,827.

Hispanics are moving inland from the Northeastern Seaboard. Why? Edward Glaeser has an explanation:

Worcester County's substantially lower prices suggest that demand for homes there is weaker, but as long as they supply more housing, the area will grow. Worcester provides affordable housing for people who want an urban life and much of its growth reflects increasing numbers of Hispanics and Latinos.

That's what the Rust Belt has in spades, an affordable urban life. Only Hispanics and immigrants seem interested in moving there, at least right now. Whites are still cramming into the big coastal cities and displacing these other populations, who find refuge in places such as Reading, PA. The spillover from Boston and New York City is impressive.

But the diffusion only goes so far. More bad news for Buffalo:

A study by the Buffalo Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning suggested the city's population may dip to 250,000 or lower before growth resumes.

Mayor Byron Brown said that New York's status as one of the highest-taxed states has eroded many cities' populations but that he believes property tax cuts he has advanced, along with changes pushed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, could help stem the losses in the next decade.

Yes, another politician erroneously blaming state policy geography for population decline. Mayor Brown should have looked at Schenectady before shooting from the hip while riding the straight talk express. The tax cut nonsense has to stop. A good place to start is with a more sophisticated understanding of the demographic challenges facing counties all over the United States.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jim, my little city in far north Dallas county, doubled in population.
Hardly dying.
What was New York's total population net 2000-2010? I'll ask my new neighbor from NY.