It's hard not to note the triumphant tone in Joel Kotkin's piece in Forbes today on where Americans are moving. Kotkin, a scholar and pundit on urban issues, has some skin in the game, having just published a book that predicts that population growth over the next several decades will be focused not in dense urban areas but in suburbs. And he takes the most recent census data on migration as proof that he's right.
"The red states may have lost the presidential election, but they are winning new residents, largely at the expense of their politically successful blue counterparts," Kotkin writes. "For all the talk of how the Great Recession has driven people -- particularly the 'footloose young' -- toward dense urban centers, census data reveal that Americans are still drawn to the same sprawling Sun Belt regions as before."
And by "sprawling Sun Belt regions," Kotkin is referring to places like Dallas-Fort Worth, which attracted more domestic migrants between July 2010 and July 2011 than anywhere else in the country. Compare the 39,021 transplants who settled here during that period with New York, Chicago and L.A., which are all losing residents. Kotkin calls them "the deck chairs on the migratory titanic."
Kotkin pins this largely on simple economics. Aging Baby Boomers want to move to places with a low cost of living to stretch their retirement savings, while millennials look to the Sun Belt for the jobs. All the talk of the young and hip flocking to older, resurgent urban centers is overstated.
Kotkin concludes that "expensive, over-regulated and dense metropolitan areas" are still in decline and "lower-cost, less regulated and generally less dense regions" -- the "opportunity cities" like Dallas -- remain ascendent. "This may be bad news to many urban pundits and big city speculators, but it also should create new opportunities for more perceptive, and less jaded, investors," he writes.
That may be so, but it doesn't explain why, to illustrate the story, Forbes chose a picture of downtown Dallas that prominently features Reunion Arena