March 18, 2013


CALIFORNIA NEEDS MORE IMMIGRANTS (Joel Kotkin 03/18/2013, New Geography)

[H]istorically, a decline in new migration also suggests something else: a picture oddly reminiscent of the kind of demographic stagnation long associated with places like Cleveland, Buffalo, N.Y., Pittsburgh and Detroit. A more native-dominated region may be both more socially stable but increasingly hidebound and lacking innovation.

For cities, demographic stagnation is not a recipe for success. Over the past decade, notes demographer Wendell Cox, the Los Angeles-Orange County area has seen the fifth-highest growth in the percentage of locally born people in its population, among nation's 51 largest metropolitan areas. The concern is not so much that people are leaving these places in droves; the real issue is that not enough new people, with new ideas and great ambition, are coming in.

Already, notes economist Bill Watkins, large parts of the state, particularly along the coast, are evolving into "geriatric ghettos" populated by aging, often-affluent baby boomers. And, as for keeping the "best," the steady decline in California's relative educational ranking, particularly in the younger cohorts, should convince us that we cannot reasonably rely on native-born residents to meet the challenges of the future.

Watkins also points out that California has been losing domestic migrants for 10 of the past 15 years. It's been worse in this region; over the past decade the Los Angeles-Orange County area suffered the third-highest rate in the country of net outmigration, slightly above New York's. Amazingly, on a per capita basis, people are leaving our sun-drenched metropolis more rapidly than from Rust Belt disaster areas such as Cleveland and Detroit.

In recent decades, this shortfall has been more than made up by foreign immigration. But in a stunning reversal of the trends in past decades, the number of foreign-born in our region has started to stagnate. Indeed, over the most-recent decade, the Southland has experienced the slowest rate of growth in its foreign-born population of any major region in the country. Los Angeles-Orange County gained 110,000 immigrants over the decade, one-sixth as many as New York City and only a quarter as many as Houston. Our immigrant population has grown less than that of much smaller regions such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, Austin, Texas, Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth.

These patterns suggest a dangerous shift in our demographic DNA and a decline in our historic archetype as one of the world's most culturally and economically innovative regions.

Posted by at March 18, 2013 5:17 AM

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