[Also by Linda Thom: School Overcrowding: The (Unspoken) Immigration Dimension]
A tale of two press releases: In January, the Census Bureau released U.S. population figures for the fifteen-month period April 2000-July 2001. The big news, according to the Bureau: Hispanics now outnumber Blacks.
Naturally, much of the media ran this happy headline.
But the Census Bureau failed to highlight the rapid immigration-driven rise in the overall U.S. population and the radical changes in its racial composition.
So, naturally, you didn't hear much about that.
It was the same earlier this month, when the Census Bureau released a report on 1995-2000 state-to-state migration. This showed dramatic net out-migrations of the "native-born" (a.k.a. Americans) from New York, California and Illinois and net inflows to North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada. Naturally, there was no mention of the possibility that immigration-driven population growth might be causing this extraordinary exodus of Americans from their home states.
So, naturally the media didn't mention that possibility, either.
The story behind the press releases, however, is starting.
Some 32.5 million immigrants resided in the U.S. in March 2002 .[PDF] Nearly nine-tenths (87 percent) arrived after 1970—the first Census year after the 1965 Immigration Act became effective. Almost half (48.6 percent) arrived since 1990. Since 1970, over two-thirds of U.S. population growth has resulted from immigrants and their U.S.-born children.
The impact on America's racial balance is intensifying. At the time of the last census, April 2000, the U.S. population was 281.4 million. Over the next 15 months, through July 1, 2001, it grew by 3.4 million, to a total of 284.8 million.
The table below shows the racial and ethnic composition of that change. (The numbers are in millions.)
For numberphobes, let's go through this in words. The total number of whites rose by only 600,000 net. Whites accounted for more that two-thirds (70 percent) of the total U.S. population in April 2000. But whites accounted for less that a fifth (18 percent) of the increase over the next 15 months.
In contrast, Asians accounted for only 4 percent of the April 2000 population. But in the next 15 months, they grew a net 400,000 – accounting for 12 percent of the increase.
Hispanics were 13 percent of the April 2000 population. But over the next 15 months, they grew net 1.7 million. Hispanics accounted for half the U.S. population increase.
Blacks were almost the same proportion of the April 2000 population as Hispanics—13 percent. They roughly held their own, adding 500,000 people, accounting for 15 percent of the population increase.
Virtually all Hispanics and Asians are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
The major reason for the rise in U.S. population, of course, is the large number of immigrants. Nevertheless, the number of children born to immigrants is also large and rising.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 4.03 million babies were born in 2001. A decade earlier, in 1992, births had been slightly higher—4.07 million.
In 1992, immigrants gave birth to 642,272 children. In 2001, ten years later, they gave birth to 905,835 children—263,563 more annual births and almost one in four of all births.
In contrast, between 1992 and 2001, annual births to U.S.-born women dropped by 302,645 from 3.42 million to 3.12 million. [SOURCE: my calculations based on NCHs annual reports for 1992 and 2001
So the decline in total annual births resulted entirely from decreased births to U.S.-born mothers.
What about state-to state migration? The Census report for 1995-2000 shows that immigration is dividing the U.S. into three distinct categories of states, whose experiences are increasingly divergent.
Why are Americans moving out of New York and California? The Bureau ascribed out-migration from these states to "economic factors and retiree migration." But it's notable that, although in past years, retired New Yorkers moved to southern Florida by the thousands, today their destinations of choice might be the Florida panhandle or even Georgia or North Carolina.
Horacio Soberón , the research director for Destination Florida , told the Miami Herald earlier this month: "We heard a lot of testimony from southwest Florida, complaining about the congestion, saying they already have enough people." Fewer make Florida favorite spot to retire, by Tim Henderson August 6, 2003,
Similarly, in the May/June 2003 edition of the AARP Magazine, experts cited in "The 15 Best Places to Re-invent your Life" indicated that most retiring baby boomers remain in their long-time homes. But nevertheless, retirees are fleeing California. William Frey, a demographer with the University of Michigan, told AARP: "...other states have recently lured long-time Californians who loved the Golden State lifestyle but became fed up with high taxes and crowds." [My emphasis].
Professor Dowell Myers of the University of Southern California's Population Dynamics Research Group recently claimed that although California lost population to 38 other states, "the state is not on the skids" but rather
"It's just a balancing mechanism. I think most Californians would be glad that somebody left. Otherwise, we would be overflowing." [San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 2003, ()
As a retiree who has just fled California, I disagree with Professor Myers about whether the state is on the skids – and so, presumably, do the Californians who have taken the exceptional step of forcing a gubernatorial recall election.
But I have a question for the professor: if Californians are "glad" to see Americans leave, how might they feel about immigrants continuing to arrive? [Ask Professor Myers.]
Apparently, no one thought about that—or surely those views would have been reported.
Susannah Rosenblatt of the Los Angeles Times [August 6,th California Is Seen in Rearview Mirror) reported that folks moved to more affordable areas, to better job opportunities and to less congested areas which provided a better life style. Michael Fix, of the Urban Institute, was quoted claiming that fewer immigrants are moving to California because "Some of the job niches filled up, the housing filled up, the roads and the schools filled up." But immigrants are moving elsewhere, which constitutes "the successful pursuit of higher wages," according to Fix.
So, according to Mr. Fix, all this is okay because it has a happy ending with immigrants just picking up and moving for better wages.
Could it be that Americans moved for the same reason—and could it be that this is not a happy ending?
Did the Americans want the jobs niches to fill up, the houses to fill up, the roads to fill up and schools to fill up?
Did they want to pack up and move out?
Or would they have preferred that the Golden State remain golden?
Although the Census Bureau may not want to say this in a way that the media will notice, the U.S. government is electing a new people – and displacing the old.
Linda Thom [email her] is a retiree who fled California three years ago. She formerly worked as an officer for a major bank and as a budget analyst for the County Administrator of Santa Barbara. Of her four immediate neighbors on her island in Washington State, three are from California. But she says it rains a lot and NOBODY ELSE SHOULD COME.