When people think of America, they may be inclined to picture some of our iconic cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. While these well-established metropolitan areas remain important culturally and economically, demographic trends are shifting, tilting to places like Dallas and Tampa. A brief look at recent statistics demonstrates that the future of America belongs to states like Texas and Florida.
While these increasingly important states are currently the butt of many jokes, they are ground zero for a mass migration of Americans. The jokes can be funny; Texas’ unique culture has led to it being used as a slang word for crazy in the Norwegian language, and every sentence ever written about Florida seems to begin “A Florida man” (that’s because of our open records law, not because of our craziness, but that’s a whole other story).
In the future, you’re going to have a lot more people to make fun of: almost 1,000 people a day move to Texas, and more than 800 people a day move to Florida. Florida recently passed New York to become the third most populous state, while Texas is still the second most populous. Take it from this Florida man, Americans are moving South and West (minus California) in such numbers that it’s changing America’s economy and shifting political power.
People are leaving states in the Northeast and Midwest in droves, for a variety of reasons, but our changing demography is driving much of the migration. Millennials are now the largest age group in the United States, having dethroned Baby Boomers last year. As Baby Boomers age, and they lick their wounds from the recession, they’re headed to traditional retirement destinations like Florida to live out their days in warmer weather. Mommy and Daddy are abandoning Connecticut and Illinois in favor of the Sunshine State because they’re tired of the rough winters.
Beyond lovely year-around weather, a dramatically lower cost of living is compelling many people to take the plunge and move South. Housing has simply become unaffordable in states like New York, Massachusetts, and California, while it remains highly accessible to many ordinary middle class folks in Florida and Texas.
Corporate America seems to be taking note of their employees’ desire to pursue the American dream and own their own home. Word on the street is that when Toyota moved their headquarters from Southern California to Texas, affordable housing was a major part of the decision. Considering the cost of housing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is about a third of what it is in Southern California, there’s little doubt that many Toyota employees will be able to become homeowners after they move to Texas.
There’s little that will stop this trend. Business-friendliness runs deep in Southern states, since they’re no stranger to poverty. This means businesses will continue to flee union-friendly, high cost states in favor of places like Texas and Florida. As the masses settle down and major corporations follow, these economies are becoming much more diverse and are moving beyond their traditional stereotypes of a oil and tourism-dominated business landscape.
What this shift in population means economically is much clearer than its political consequences. Some say migration Southward is bringing more diverse and liberal populations to formerly solid Republican states. Alternatively, Republicans may see gains because red states will pick up more congressional seats after the next census in 2020. Either way, these trends are bound to change politics in Washington as congress becomes dominated by Southern legislators. Seven out of the nine that could lose a congressional seat after the next census are Northern States.
These trends and our growing power mean that the media can no longer treat Texas and Florida like outliers. The future of mainstream America is in Texas and Florida, and our national culture must grow to accept that reality. People like me who spent their childhood under palm trees and blue skies understand why people want to head South. As millions of people are discovering, being labeled a “Florida man” or a “Texas crazy” is totally worth it to enjoy a much more affordable, less regulated, and warm Southern lifestyle.