The Realignment of America The native-born are leaving "hip" cities for the heartland. BY MICHAEL BARONE Tuesday, May 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
In 1950, when I was in kindergarten in Detroit, the city had a population of (rounded off) 1,850,000. Today the latest census estimate for Detroit is 886,000, less than half as many. In 1950, the population of the U.S. was 150 million. Today the latest census estimate for the nation is 301 million, more than twice as many. People in America move around. But not just randomly.
It has become a commonplace to say that population has been flowing from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt, from an industrially ailing East and Midwest to an economically vibrant West and South. But the actual picture of recent growth, as measured by the 2000 Census and the census estimates for 2006, is more complicated. Recently I looked at the census estimates for 50 metropolitan areas with more than one million people in 2006, where 54% of Americans live. (I cheated a bit on definitions, adding Durham to Raleigh and combining San Francisco and San Jose.) What I found is that you can separate them into four different categories, with different degrees and different sources of population growth or decline. And I found some interesting surprises.
Start with the Coastal Megalopolises: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago (on the coast of Lake Michigan), Miami, Washington and Boston. Here is a pattern you don't find in other big cities: Americans moving out and immigrants moving in, in very large numbers, with low overall population growth. Los Angeles, defined by the Census Bureau as Los Angeles and Orange Counties, had a domestic outflow of 6% of 2000 population in six years—balanced by an immigrant inflow of 6%. The numbers are the same for these eight metro areas as a whole. [More]
To understand the reasons behind these shifts in population and the voting behavior associated with them, see my 2005 article on "Affordable Family Formation."