California retains its hold on Americans’ imaginations, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pull up stakes and move there. Both sides of this equation become clear when one looks first at a recent Harris Poll and then at an analysis of 2000 Census data. In the poll, California ranked No. 1 when Americans were asked which state (other than their own) they’d most like to live in or near. But the study of Census data, by University of Michigan demographer William Frey, notes that California had a net loss between 1990 and 2000 in the number of migrants who were born in the U.S. So, where are native-born Americans going when they relocate? Frey’s analysis shows growing numbers of them going to New Sunbelt states, such as Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado and Tennessee. The states with the biggest gains in out-of-state U.S.-born population were Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Texas. These migrants tend to come “from more expensive, congested coastal states like California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as Midwest states like Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.” While the largest rises in foreign-born population came in the old immigrant gateway states—California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey—the New Sunbelt has begun to attract larger numbers of immigrants. The study says the influx of U.S.-born migrants has a magnet effect as it creates jobs in fields like construction and retailing, which are “increasingly filled by immigrants.” Thus, trends in domestic migration are yielding a “new foreign-born dispersal” beyond the traditional immigrant gateways.
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