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The South Has Risen Again

Over at Forbes, a fascinating piece by the demographer and social scientist Joel Kotkin–with a hat tip to our own Ben Domenech for linking to the piece in “The Transom” earlier this week.

Kotkin’s no conservative. But he’s honest about the data–honest, so to speak, about the evidence of his own eyes. “The common media view of the South,” Kotkin writes, “may be as a regression region, full of overweight, prejudiced, exploited, and undereducated numbskulls.” But the region has already become the most populous in the nation–and it’s still growing. Viz:

The South still attracts the most domestic migrants of any U.S. region. Last year, it boasted six of the top eight states in terms of net domestic migration — Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia. Texas and Florida alone gained 250,000 net migrants. The top four losers were deep blue New York, Illinois, New Jersey and California….

In the 1950s, the South, the Northeast and the Midwest each had about the same number of people. Today the region is almost as populous as the Northeast and the Midwest combined.

Perhaps more importantly, these states [in the South] are nurturing families, in contrast to the Great Lakes states, the Northeast and California. Texas, for example, has increased its under 10 population by over 17% over the past decade; all the former confederate states, outside of Katrina-ravaged Mississippi and Louisiana, gained between 5% and 10%. On the flip side, under 10 populations declined in Illinois, Michigan, New York and California. Houston, Austin, Dallas, Charlotte, Atlanta and Raleigh also saw their child populations rise by at least twice the 10% rate of the rest country over the past decade while New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago areas experienced declines.

God, guns, families, patriotism–and low taxes. Obama may succeed in turning the Northeast and the West Coast into Belgium-like welfare states, but the South looks as though it has no intention of playing along, and–here we come to the really critical point–may even help save the rest of us:

Over time, numbers like these [that show a growing southern population] will have consequences politically, as well as culturally and economically. In the next half century, more Americans will be brought up Southern; the drawls may be softer, and social values hopefully less constricted, but the cultural imprint and regional loyalties are likely to persist. Rather than fade way, expect Southern influence instead to grow over time. 

I differ from Kotkin in one particular, of course–I hope the South retains its social values just as they are. (I suppose I’d better note that I’m writing here of social, rather than racial, values, but even so. Kotkin scarcely touches on race here, yet, as Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina demonstrates, in matters of race the South has come a long, long way.) In expecting the influence of the South to rise and rise, however, I’m with Kotkin.