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The Red State Renaissance

Joel Kotkin, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal:

In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, some political commentators have written political obituaries of the “red” or conservative-leaning states, envisioning a brave new world dominated by fashionably blue bastions in the Northeast or California. But political fortunes are notoriously fickle, while economic trends tend to be more enduring.

These trends point to a U.S. economic future dominated by four growth corridors that are generally less dense, more affordable, and markedly more conservative and pro-business: the Great Plains, the Intermountain West, the Third Coast (spanning the Gulf states from Texas to Florida), and the Southeastern industrial belt.

Overall, these corridors account for 45% of the nation’s land mass and 30% of its population. Between 2001 and 2011, job growth in the Great Plains, the Intermountain West and the Third Coast was between 7% and 8%—nearly 10 times the job growth rate for the rest of the country. Only the Southeastern industrial belt tracked close to the national average.

… Since 2000, the Intermountain West’s population has grown by 20%, the Third Coast’s by 14%, the long-depopulating Great Plains by over 14%, and the Southeast by 13%. Population in the rest of the U.S. has grown barely 7%. Last year, the largest net recipients of domestic migrants were Texas and Florida, which between them gained 150,000. The biggest losers? New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California.

The handwriting is on the wall here. The blue state model is losing market share (talk to any group of conservatives in California and the topic of where everyone is considering moving will invariably come up in the first 15 minutes), which is a real problem given that it relies on populations sufficiently large to buttress its thicket of transfer payments.

Here’s what I’m curious about: to what extent will the culture follow the economy? Will a red state media center emerge to compete with New York, Los Angeles, and Washington? Will universities in the interior of the country start to see their prestige rise relative to the legacy institutions of the coasts? Will there be new entertainment meccas to compete with Hollywood or Broadway (the first person who suggests Branson gets their membership revoked)?

Also, given that this topic comes up here from time to time, I’m curious to hear members’ thoughts on two questions:

If you live in one of the decaying blue states, what is your tipping point for packing up and leaving?

And if you live in one of the ascendant red states, how do you feel about the influx of new residents?