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Some states face political changes as newcomers arrive

Tim Henderson, Stateline.org on

Published in News & Features

The Bauers are moving to be near their daughter, who will attend college in Texas. John's work as a business consultant allows him to live anywhere. Property taxes might be higher in the Lone Star State, but its lack of state income tax helps. And they'll be able to trade a $925,000 house in California for a custom-built home, more than twice as big at 4,600 square feet, for about two-thirds of the cost.

Net movers to Texas from other states increased 50% to more than 125,000, according to the census estimates.

It was the only state to see such a large increase. Net movers to Georgia grew 24% to about 50,000, and movers to Idaho were up 14% to about 27,000.

Texas has been a magnet for movers recently as rising oil prices have boosted its economy, said Pia Orrenius, a labor economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. But the state's growing appeal also has made housing more expensive.

"We're still more affordable than the large metros in New York and California, which is where we've been pulling the bulk of migration," Orrenius said. "But we're not as affordable compared to the rest of the nation as we were 10 years ago. It's much harder to compete with the heartland."

During the oil price bust of 2014-2016, Texas population growth slowed but never stopped, noted state demographer Lloyd Potter, as the state's economy diversified to include more tech and knowledge industries.

 

The politics change when young people moving to urban areas within the red states where they grew up meet newcomers from other states and new immigrant cultures.

"If you look at some of the swing districts that have historically been solidly Republican, they're becoming more competitive," Potter said. Six Texas Republicans have retired from Congress ahead of this year's election, and some of those seats may go to Democrats.

Young progressive movers tend to leave rural areas for Democratic cities, Potter said, and that also changes the politics. More than 90 Texas counties are losing population despite the overall boom, and they're mostly in small towns or rural areas, Potter added.

Arrivals from other states are part of an equation that is challenging Republicans in Texas and other states in the South and Southwest, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

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