NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Heading To The New Suburban States

September 24, 2002

Moving to the suburbs used to imply a local move to a more bucolic, safe middle-class neighborhood -- say from downtown L.A. to the San Fernando Valley. The 2000 census, however, showed a new kind of national "suburbanization," as large numbers of middle-class people chose to escape to whole new states.

Recent research shows U.S. population growth has shifted, for the first time in generations, toward smaller communities, non-urban areas, and less densely populated states. In particular, there are 13 fast-growing states that might be called America's Suburbs: Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Delaware.

What's particularly interesting about the migration to these states is that they grew mostly through the migration of successful native-born whites and blacks from other states.

  • Domestic migrants outnumbered foreign-born immigrants by five to one in these states during the 1990s -- and 79 percent of the country's white population growth took place in these 13 states.
  • The relocators ranged from young Gen-Xers just forming families to the well-off newly retired.
  • Married couples with children are declining nationally, but they are growing in the 13-state area. (Nevada's 25 percent jump in the number of such traditional families led the nation.)
  • In contrast, California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska lost white residents during the 1990s, and now house only 37 percent of the nation's native-born population.

These white losses reflect mostly young people, married couples, parents, and new retirees heading to the 13 new suburban states -- where they seem to be seeking new lives rooted in more old-fashioned values, researchers believe.

Source: William Frey, "The New Suburbanization," The American Enterprise, April/May 2002, American Enterprise Institute.


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