One of my favorite Christmastime presents is the Census Bureau’s end-of-the-year release of its annual population estimates for each state. Comparison of the April 1, 2010, Census enumerations and the June 30, 2017, estimates for the states shows how each state fared in the Obama years since this period includes 82 of the 96 months of the Obama administration and only five months of the Trump presidency.
Who are the big population gainers? Some small units: the District of Columbia at 15 percent (big government, gentrification), North Dakota at 12 percent (fracking, which liberals failed to stop), Utah at 12 percent (1950s-style high birth rates).
Those with the largest impact, however, are Texas at 13 percent and Florida at 12 percent. Together, their population increase was 5.3 million, nearly one-third of the national total. Why? No state income taxes, light-touch regulation, and the resulting private sector booms. Immigration? Not so much this decade, with their 1.6 million immigrants outnumbered 2-1 by 3.5 migrants from other states.
Three states actually lost population. Two are small and easily explainable. West Virginia, minus 2 percent: Obama’s war on coal. Vermont, minus 1 percent. Woodstock-era migrants — Bernie Sanders, Howard Dean — liberalized the state’s culture and politics. But with high taxes and stringent environmental bans, no one is following.
The third loser is Illinois, minus 0.3 percent. It takes some doing to get people to flee one of mankind’s greatest artifacts, Chicago. But Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House for all but two years since 1982, has proved up to it.
High and rising taxes, to pay for hugely underfunded public pensions, have done the trick. Net domestic outmigration from Illinois in 2010-17 was 642,000, more than any other state but New York’s 1,022,000.
The nexus between high taxation and domestic outflow is plain when you look at percentages. Domestic outmigration was 5 percent of 2010 population in Illinois and New York, 4 percent in New Jersey and Connecticut (which General Electric left behind for the former Taxachusetts, which cut taxes sharply in the 1990s). In only three other continental states was outmigration more than 2 percent.
Domestic inflow was 4 and 5 percent of 2010 population in Texas and Florida, and also in the Pacific Northwest and five Mountain states (Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Montana). It was even higher, 6 percent, in North Dakota and South Carolina.
In the first decade of this century, up to the 2007-09 recession, it was widely observed that foreign immigration was spreading from its initial foci — California, Texas, New York, Florida — to other states, especially in the South. That trend seems to have been petering out in 2010-17.
Nationwide, immigration in these years was 2.3 percent of 2010 population, lower than during the 1982-2007 surge. And in only 12 states and D.C. was that rate above the national percentage.
This reflects the 2008-14 halt in net immigration from Mexico. States that used to get many Mexican immigrants had only slightly above average immigration rates, 3 percent in California and Texas, or were below average, 1.7 percent in Illinois. Immigration rates were below the national average also in Nevada and Arizona, immigration magnets before 2008.
Higher immigration rates were registered in Florida, at 5 percent the nation’s highest, and in states clustered around New York, Boston, and Washington: 3 to 4 percent in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, with D.C. at 5 percent.
Florida’s gains reflect immigrants from Latin America south of Mexico, but the others represent increased immigration from Asia, which in recent years has produced more arrivals than Latin America — a reversal of the 1982-2007 trend. Increased Asian immigration is reflected also in the above-national-average immigration rates in Hawaii and Washington state.
Census data show Asian concentrations in university communities and medical centers. Of course, not all Asian immigrants are high-skilled techies or M.Ds, but overall the immigration inflow in the 2010s has been more high-skill and substantially less low-skill than before.
All of which suggests a counterintuitive hypothesis: The patterns of internal and immigrant migration of 2010-17 looks less like Barack Obama’s ideal America and more like Donald Trump’s.
The flight from high-tax to low-tax states, diminished by higher-skill immigration, the fracking boom in North Dakota, and the decline in hip Vermont: You might even say Trump started winning even when Obama was still in office.