The US population center is trending south this decade

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – The U.S. population center is on track to take a southerly detour this decade for the first time in history, and that’s thanks to people like Owen Glick, who moved from California to California more than a year ago Florida moved.

Last year, the South surpassed other US regions by well over 1 million people, with more births than deaths and domestic and international migration, according to US Census Bureau population estimates. The Northeast and Midwest lost residents, and the West grew by an anemic 153,000 people, largely because large numbers of residents migrated to another US region. The West would have lost population had it not been for immigrants and more births than deaths.

In contrast, the South added 1.3 million new residents, and six of the 10 fastest growing US states over the past year were in the South, led in turn by Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.

Experts are unsure at this point whether the South’s dramatic pull is a short-term shift sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic or a long-term trend, or what impact it will have on how political power is redistributed through redistribution after the 2030 census. Due to delays caused by the pandemic, changes were made to how the Census Bureau calculates estimates this decade, and that too may have had an impact.

But experts say the allure of the South has to do with a mix of affordable housing, lower taxes, the popularity of remote work during the pandemic and the retirement of baby boomers.

Glick, 56, and his then-partner moved to the Orlando area from Metro San Diego in December 2021 after retiring from his job in corporate sales. Before moving, they had traveled to central Florida regularly to look at rental properties that they had bought because they were cheaper in the Sunshine State than in Southern California.

While living and eating costs are lower than in California, Florida has hidden maintenance costs, such as: B. the need to paint more frequently because of the relentless sun and higher electricity bills from year-round air conditioning, he said.

“They’re in better financial shape price-wise here, but there’s more property maintenance spending,” Glick said.

Glick was among 233,000 people who left a Western state and put down roots in another region from mid-2021 to mid-2022. He joins the ranks of nearly 868,000 people who have moved to a southern state from another region.

If the trend continues for the rest of this decade, by 2030 the middle center of the US population will move south from a rural county in the Missouri Ozarks, for the first time in history without a westward expansion, according to urban planner Alex Zakrewsky , which models the population center.

Since the center of population was first calculated in Chestertown, Maryland, in 1790, it has steadily shifted westward, although it began to assume a more southwesterly inclination in the 20th century as the spread of air conditioning made the South more livable.

“If that really works out, it’s really historic,” said Zakrewsky, a principal planner for Middlesex County, New Jersey.

North Carolina state demographer Michael Cline said growth in the South has “exceeded trends” the region was experiencing before the pandemic, which he says has accelerated many movers’ decisions to move from cold-climate states , or enabled people to work remotely for the first time.

Outward migration began in 2021, the first full year of the pandemic, when 145,000 residents moved to another US region. Until then, internal migration to the West had increased every year since 2010.

A significant portion of the emigration was due to people leaving California, but Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington also saw year-on-year domestic migration losses in 2021-2022. Year-over-year increases in domestic migration—Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah—these increases were smaller than a year earlier.

In Oregon, it’s still unclear whether the phenomenon of more than 17,000 emigration to other U.S. states was a temporary, pandemic-driven trend due to remote work freedoms and housing affordability, or if it is a longer-term movement due to quality living issues such as crime, weather or wildfires, said Josh Lehner, a state economist.

Oregon, which won a seat in Congress in 2021 after booming in the previous decade, hadn’t experienced a population decline since the 1980s, when the lumber industry shrank and the housing market collapsed.

“If we don’t see this labor force growth the way we normally do, it means economic activity will be slower, government revenues will be lower. That’s a question we’re struggling with,” said Lehner.

Lehner added that he wants to see more data from 2023 “before I freak out.”

William Frey, a demographer at think tank Brookings Metro, also wants to see if the trend is just related to the pandemic or carries through to the rest of the decade. A big wildcard is immigration, which is responsible for most of the growth in 2022, he said.

“Part of that has to do with going somewhere else from the big, densely populated coastal metropolises,” Frey said. “One thing that needs to be questioned is whether the patterns of the last two years will continue for the rest of the decade.”