The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Americans Flock to Post-Blue Cities

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Americans are moving to where the money is, says Michael Barone. Cities and states with high taxes and unwieldy regulations are losing ground to those that have taken the opposite approach. The result is staggering demographic and economic growth in places like Austin, Dallas, and Raleigh, while New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence and Los Angeles continue to fall behind:

Austin’s population grew by 6.9 percent and Raleigh’s by 5.1 in 2010-12. That’s huge growth in just two years.

Both are high-tech centers with major universities. They had the biggest rate of domestic in-migration of any million-plus metro areas in 2010-2012.

They both have reputations as cool cities. More important, they both have creative and vibrant private sector economies, fostered by relatively low tax rates and sensible regulation.

As Barone notes, the fact that relatively unattractive and blisteringly hot cities like Houston and Dallas are attracting so many newcomers suggests that the Texas model is winning out. Meanwhile, “Despite wonderful weather, domestic in-migration is negligible in the San Francisco Bay Area and metro San Diego.”

Note that the cities and states least wedded to the old blue model or that are most willing to tear it down are the ones that are growing. Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with their economic and social policies

[America image courtesy of Shutterstock.com]

Published on March 25, 2013 5:27 pm
  • http://www.readerwriterrunner.com/p/about-me_29.html Steve

    The shrinking cities are also those with the oldest infrastructure and the least room to grow (geographically). While I don’t deny the fact that social and economic policy are influencing growth, might part of the reason also be old vs new?

    • http://twitter.com/BlatonHardey Blaton Hardey

      “Old vs New” — I think both migration and infrastructure are related to the respective policies. They don’t have a perfect infrastructure in Texas, and they too suffer from broken this, broken that — but they deal differently with these issues. Let’s say you take all the people in Detroit and put them into Austin — and the other way around — I think ten years from now, people will move from Austin to Detroit. Because Austin will have laws requiring everyone to put sun lotion on their faces while Detroit is home to gun slinging, cowboy hat wearing, smoking hot chicks with a Texan accent.

  • ojfl

    The problem is that over time people seem to demand the Blue model even in these places that are so economically attractive. Ultimately that will be friction in these places and we shall see what comes out of that friction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=810395555 Nathan Holmes

    It’s simply astonishing that you can publish an item like this without acknowledging the housing factor. There is a lack of affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. But for that, people would flock there over Texas. Compared to the Bay Area, Texas offers an inferior quality-of-life in most areas except housing. But housing is very important.

    • http://www.facebook.com/clayton.holbrook.9 Clayton Holbrook

      ” Compared to the Bay Area, Texas offers an inferior quality-of-life in most areas except housing.”

      [Citation needed]

      Good schools, low cost of living, best job market in the country. Where is this “inferior quality” in TX?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=810395555 Nathan Holmes

        Quality-of-life is certainly subjective- I acknowledge I worded that poorly. And Texas does many things better than the Bay Area/CA- public education may be one of them.

        But I guess what I mean is that the Bay Area offers more options. You have more fun stuff to do, more mobility options, better weather, more open to different cultures. The Bay Area life is more in demand than Texas, but the cost of housing pushes people out.

        You can perhaps get a house and job easier in Texas, but it’s a one-choice model: a cookie cutter suburban house that requires a commute by car to anywhere you want to go. You don’t have other options, like you do in the Bay Area. Many people prefer a Texas lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that, but you simply have fewer options for what that lifestyle can be.

        I would compare the Bay Area to an expensive restaurant with too little seating. Texas is the bigger, more affordable restaurant down the street that gets the people who can’t afford the Bay Area. But the fact that more people are going to Texas is not inherently indicative that Texas serves up BETTER FOOD. It just has better prices and more seating.

        • Clayton Holbrook

          Well quality in this case is certainly subjective Nathan. But I think your restaurant metaphor assumes a little too much about Texas.

          I live in Austin. I took the rail downtown last week with my bike in tow from my centrally located neighborhood in a young and hip city for perhaps one of the better creative events in the country that is South by Southwest. And I
          paid much less taxes to get that rail (albeit it’s new and less expansive than the BART). And my rent for my centrally located apt is less than half that of a similar one in San Francisco.

          I lived in San Francisco
          for a time after college. I loved the “vibe”, but I constantly worked two or three jobs up to 80 hrs per week that I was over-qualified for, as there was less opportunity for entry level professional work. Is that really
          a good lifestyle that the weather and stinky public transit can make up for?

          Don’t get me wrong. I love the Bay Area and frequently visit friends, but as young man looking to hopefully start a family one day, I’m very thankful for my Texas model. People assume Texas is this suburban boring bleh; that’s just not true, especially considering recent growth and urbanization.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=810395555 Nathan Holmes

            A very valid point. I have visited Texas only once, and it was Austin, which I loved. But that didn’t feel representative of Texas to me. Of course, the Bay Area isn’t necessarily representative of CA either. But when I was making my points, I was thinking more of Houston, Dallas, and the suburban lifestyle they promote. Houston has some quirkiness, as I understand it, but it is still auto-centric. Which isn’t saying that much, because SF and the Bay Area are still auto-oriented.

            But…there’s a reason your rent is half what it would be in SF. There is less demand for housing where you are. Whether you agree with it or not, that says something about the overall desirability of your town, it’s access to particular jobs, etc.

            Texas overall may be better for entry-level jobs- I don’t know. I do know much of the reputed job growth Rick Perry likes to tout are minimum-wage jobs.

            I’m not defending the Bay Area model. One of the reasons my wife and our kids left is because we couldn’t afford a home there. But I’m not sold on the Texas model, and to get back to WRM’s main point- I think the lack of housing is the single most important reason people leave CA for Texas, not the higher taxes.