The Census Bureau
last week released county and city populations for the last of the 50 states from the 2010 Census last week, ahead of schedule. Behind the columns of numbers are many vivid stories of how our nation has been changing — and some lessons for public policy, as well.
Geographically, our population is moving to the south and west, to the point that the center of the nation’s population has moved to Texas County, Missouri...
What’s been happening is that people from the Northeast and the Midwest have been flocking to the South Atlantic states, not to retirement communities but to Tampa and Jacksonville, Atlanta and Charlotte and Raleigh, which are among the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas. The South Atlantic has been attracting smaller numbers of immigrants, as well.
Coastal California, in contrast, has had a vast inflow of immigrants and a similarly vast outflow of Americans. High housing costs, exacerbated by no-growth policies and environmental restrictions, have made modest homes unaffordable to middle-class families who don’t want to live in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods or commute 50 miles to work.
California, for the first time in its history, grew only microscopically faster than the nation as a whole (10 percent to 9.7 percent). Metro Los Angeles and San Francisco increasingly resemble Mexico City and São Paulo, with a large affluent upper class, a vast proletariat, and a huge income gap in between.
Public policy plays an important role here — one that’s especially relevant as state governments seek to cut spending and reduce the power of the public-employee unions that seek to raise spending and prevent accountability.
The lesson is that high taxes and strong public employee unions tend to stifle growth and produce a two-tier society like coastal California’s.
The eight states with no state income tax grew 18 percent in the last decade. The other states (including the District of Columbia) grew just 8 percent.
The 22 states with right-to-work laws grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew just 6 percent.
The 16 states where collective bargaining with public employees is not required grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew 7 percent
Slow growth is nice if you’ve got a good-sized trust fund and some nice acreage in a place like Aspen. But it reduces opportunity for those who don’t start off with such advantages to move upward on the economic ladder.
The most rapid growth in 2000–10, 21 percent, was in the Rocky Mountain states and in Texas. The Rocky Mountain states tend to have low taxes, weak unions, and light regulation. Texas has no state income tax, no public-employee union bargaining, and light regulation...
The states, said Justice Brandeis, are laboratories of reform. The 2010 Census tells us whose experiment worked best. It’s the state with the same name as the county that’s the center of the nation’s population: Texas.