Major news sources like to monitor migration trends among states. The Census Bureau has been watching these trends also and what you find "between the lines," is really quite interesting.
The fastest growing states for population are (in order) Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, Washington, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina.
There are several unique characteristics about these population shifts:
They are often huge. Texas gained over 500,000 in one year. This is largely attributable to the huge number of businesses that have relocated to the state.
All of these states lean Republican or are very Republican. Republican strategists’ lips salivate when they think of these population shifts to their state. This means more Congressional seats moving to their states and away (as you will see later) from Democrat states. However, they may be surprised by the long term results, as I will explain later.
They tend to be in the West or (even more so) the South. This has been a trend that has persisted for decades and continues to be the case. Politically, the implications of this are significant. All of our Presidents since John F. Kennedy have been from Texas, California, Georgia, and Arkansas (with the exception of our sitting President and Gerald Ford.
What about states that have seen a decline in population? They are, starting with the biggest loser, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island, Ohio, Vermont, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and Mississippi.
They are in overwhelmingly liberal states. With the exception of Mississippi, these states are all "true blue." This, again, makes conservatives excited and liberals concerned, but the long term implications could prove different.
With the exception of Mississippi, all of these are in the East Coast and Midwest, which have also suffered when it comes to political prestige and power.
What are the lessons learned?
I believe that the political and economic environment of many of these states have become so hostile to entrepreneurship and economic growth, people are voting with their feet in a quest to find better jobs and opportunities. Michigan has taken a pounding for decades (my family was among the "Michiganders" who flew South to flee the rust belt in the 1970s) and continues to face economic pressures due to unions that international competitors never have to encounter. New York and Connecticut are noted for their constant regulatory pressures they apply on business, forcing many to have little choice but to leave. The list goes on; people are leaving these states on the quest for economic prosperity.
I believe Republicans, who appear to be the long term winners in these shifts, should be cautious in their enthusiasm. I remember when I worked as an aide for US Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire. That state had become extremely Republican by the 1980s and was enjoying growth as people fled the disastrous political and economic situation in Massachusetts just to the South. Eventually New Hampshire became increasingly liberal as people moved who knew there were things wrong with their home state -- taxes, crime, etc. -- but didn't realize that the people they were voting for were the source of their problems. So once they moved to a new promise land, they brought the same terrible policies with them. Today, New Hampshire is now a major population loser as the migrants from Massachusetts wonder what happened to the Granite State. It is a vicious cycle.
The future looks bright for conservative friendly states on paper, but this will only be the case if new voters support the very policies that have made these states so attractive in the first place.
Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.