|Trends in Southern migration|
Americans have elected a black president for a second time, and voters in the South have proven staunchly opposed to the idea. With Florida being the only state in the Deep South to go for Barack Obama in 2012, it would seem our region is out of step with the rest of the country.
But guess which region is attracting more newcomers than any other. If you guessed the South, you are right on target. And if you are confused by that seeming incongruity, you are not alone.
According to a new report from Facing South and the Institute for Southern Studies, the South is the leading destination for those who move between states. Is the South's adherence to a hard-nosed form of conservative politics a turn off for many Americans? Maybe so, but it doesn't keep people from moving here. From the Facing South report:
Not as many people are moving between states as they were in earlier decades, but those who do move are choosing to move to the South.
In fact, according to new Census Bureau data released this week, the Southern region of the United States is the only one to show a net gain in migration over the last five years, growing at the expense of states in the Northeast, Midwest and even the West.
The data comes from the American Community Survey, a sampling of 3 million households conducted by the Census Bureau in the years between the decennial census. The latest figures, which reflect trends over the five-year period between 2007 and 2011, show the South as the leading destination for those who have moved between states during that time.
What about specifics? The data shows the South with a net migration gain of 181,378 from the Northeast, 128,516 from the Midwest, and 80,756 from the West. That the South is attracting more newcomers than even the West might be the biggest take-home point from the survey. Reports Facing South:
The Census Bureau data has its limitations. Its definition of the South includes such places as Washington, D.C., which demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution notes is one of the metro areas that has started seeing on uptick in newcomers moving to the area (but which few others would include as a "Southern" area). Because it's only a sample, there's also a decent margin of error.
But the overall trendlines show what many Southerners already know: Lots of newcomers, from all over the country, are calling the South home. This, combined with the fact that many Southern states have a high number of what demographers call "sticky" residents -- people who are born in the state that stay in the state -- means that the South will continue to grow, both in size and political clout.
It stands to reason that quite a few newcomers to the South are moderates or even (gasp!) liberals. And that leaves us with this heavy-duty question: Will the South change the newcomers, or will the newcomers change the South?
We will have to stay tuned for the next 25 years or so to find out.
(Graphic: Facing South and the Institute of Southern Studies)