Monday, February 18, 2013

Southern New England Is Dying

In Rhode Island and Connecticut, finding Brazilian expats used to be easy. Danbury, CT was one of the better known centers for immigrants. The sudden decline is palpable:

"It started maybe two years ago," Jimenez said of the disappearance of the Brazilian trade. "I've lost a lot of customers." He and his brother Juan say that loss is about 25 percent of their business.

Anyone who did business with the wave of Brazilian immigrants that rolled into the state beginning in the 1990s and peaked in the early 2000s, agrees that the wave is receding. The Brazilians are going home.

In Danbury, that's meant failed businesses and empty storefronts in the city's downtown.
At Eliza's Store on Main Street, its owner, Cleantes Xavier, pointed out that he and his wife, Eliza, used to have three stores on Main Street. They now have one; Eliza is working in Brazil.

"I think, maybe 80 percent of the Brazilians who were here are gone," he said.
It's showing up in city schools as well.

"It used to be skyrocketing," Augusto Gomes, administrator of the English as a Second Language, Bilingual and World Languages program in the Danbury school system, said of enrollment of Brazilian students in the city. "They were coming here by the truckload. Now, it's stagnant."

The explanation for the exodus is one part American decline, another part Brazilian boom. Welcome to the Age of Return Migration. Talent is fleeing the winners of agglomeration, heading back home where better opportunity awaits.

The return migration trend is many years in the making. I don't expect the pre-recession status quo to be reestablished once the global economy fully recovers. More likely, we'll spend a number of years catching up to a new set of mesofacts.

1 comment:

Beth (@DataGeekB) said...

I suspect you'll find a strong link between job opportunities and out-migration (international or domestic) from southern New England beginning earlier than the Brazilian anecdote suggests. Many of us who were born there chose to move away for job opportunities elsewhere, and much of the traditional industry (textile and costume jewelry manufacturing, for example) moved south or overseas...