Congratulations on your thought-provoking article
â€œManifest Destiny 3.0â€? in American Demographics'
September issue. I agree with the trend and am intrigued by the
implications, but I am not clear on how you arrived at 50 million
individuals/30 million households. That would equate to about 45
percent of the combined 40-to-50 and 50-plus populations cited in
your piece. Could you provide some insight?
Director, Latitude Group
Dr. Taylor responds:
I arrived at the figure by looking at the problem in three ways. First, we started with a Southern retired population that is already approaching 35 percent of the U.S. population, with California, Nevada and Virginia imperfectly represented. Second, we looked at the roughly 15 million Southerners who headed north to find work in the '60s and '70s who are likely to disproportionately return south (survey evidence from real estate research and current practice among Southerners suggest that's roughly 10 million people). We then estimated, based on recent post-retirement experience, insurance surveys and the relocation to the Southwest states, that as many as 25 million Baby Boomers will go house hunting south of the 35th Parallel.
Adding these sources, and discounting for duplications, I came up with an educated guess of 50 million. I say in the article â€œas many as â€¦,â€? but the point is still real. Very little social planning is attending this emerging boom.
I used Census Bureau data and their growth tabulations by state to get a feel for the range of accuracy based on 2002 and 2002 updated relocation data. So I'm comfortable with the number. American Demographics' fact checkers grew comfortable when they extrapolated the delta on growth in the targeted states. Then, we looked at the fastest growing U.S. counties, realizing that this list overstates the effect of small counties because of the compounding of small numbers (San Diego no longer makes the list despite sustained inflow in six figures because the base has grown so large). Roughly 60 percent of the 100 fastest growing counties are in the red zone, especially in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, with Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama not far behind.
Your question is interesting on another point: What percent of the red zone relocaters will be 50-plus? The shift of older people will be attended by a shift of younger service people. We may have a number of communities like Santa Fe (and maybe Portland), in which the preponderance of the total population is both old and young with a decided shortage (in terms of normal distributions) of middle-agers. These make for interesting towns politically, progressive and conservative at once!
Another point was left out of the article: Were I not trying to isolate a broad sort of Mason-Dixon sweep to the red zone concept, I'd have thrown in selected Northern areas as well. This would have included the Pacific coast, beginning with Santa Rosa, Calif., up through the Humbolt Coast into Portland and up to Bellingham, assuming retired/lowered-income people would still be able to afford it.
In any case, consider the 50 million an informed estimate that may be wrong in the gross number but not wrong in import. We have a lot of older people headed south. They will bring their money and their infirmities with them. We are not really prepared for the impact on Northern cities and red zone communities.
I think there was a misinterpretation of trends reported in â€œPumps up the Ante,â€? (September 2004) particularly regarding the bar chart on page 11 (Touching a Hot Button) which set forth that the West is a, â€œmore energy conscious region of the country [and] may be more in tune with the need for conservationâ€¦â€?
The underlying basis is really the opposite, that traditionally
low energy prices and abundant supply were never a deterrent to
decentralized development patterns. The sticker shock of recent
upswings and shaky provision of services makes the impact that much
more forceful than to us Easterners used to conserving energy to
save money during the long heating season and living in older more
densely developed areas.
PETER LIEBOWITZ, AICP
Senior Vice President, AKRF, Inc.
NAUGHTY BY NATURE
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