Since 1990, Americans have been moving out of California to other states in large numbers. The Golden State's population growth in the last two decades has reached the national average only because of Latin and Asian immigration.
That immigration, to California and elsewhere, is one of the two big demographic trends that have reshaped the country over the last 40 years. The other is the movement of vast numbers of people from high-tax states in the Northeast and industrial Midwest to lower-tax and more economically vibrant states elsewhere.
Both these movements have halted, at least temporarily. American mobility is near an all-time low. As in the Depression of the 1930s, people tend to stay put in hard times. You don't want to sell your house if you're underwater on your mortgage.
And immigration has plunged. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that from 2005 to 2010, more people have moved from the United States to Mexico than the other way around. I suspect that reverse migration is still going on.
The question is whether those trends will resume when -- if? -- good times return.
My prediction is that we won't ever again see the heavy Latin immigration we saw between 1983 and 2007, which averaged 300,000 legal immigrants and perhaps as many illegals annually.
Mexican and other Latin birthrates fell more than two decades ago. And Mexico, source of 60 percent of Latin immigrants, is now a majority-middle-class country.
Asian immigration may continue, primarily from China and India, especially if we have the good sense to change our laws to let in more high-skill immigrants.
But the next big immigration source, I think, will be sub-Saharan Africa. We may end up with prominent politicians who actually were born in Kenya.
Continued domestic out-migration from high-tax states? Certainly from California, where Gov. Jerry Brown wants to raise taxes even higher. With foreign immigration down, California is likely to grow more slowly than the nation, for the first time in history, and could even start losing population.
Fortunately, governors of some other high-tax states are itching to cut taxes. The shale oil and natural gas boom has job-seekers streaming to hitherto unlikely spots like North Dakota and northeast Ohio. Great Plains cities like Omaha and Des Moines are looking pretty healthy, too.
It's not clear whether Atlanta and its smaller kin -- Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville, Jacksonville -- will resume their robust growth. They've suffered high unemployment lately.
But Texas has been doing very well. If you draw a triangle whose points are Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, enclosing Austin, you've just drawn a map of the economic and jobs engine of North America.
Texas prospers not just because of oil and gas, but thanks to a diversified and sophisticated economy. It has attracted large numbers of both immigrants and domestic migrants for a quarter century. One in 12 Americans lives there.
America is getting to look a lot more like Texas, and that's one trend that I hope continues.
Monday, June 04, 2012
Barone predicts America's demographic future
Michael Barone on U.S. demographic trends: