Moving out and moving in

July 08, 2002

BOSTON, Mass. - While the Northeast is traditionally considered a mecca for the nation's best and brightest talent in business, higher education, high tech and biotechnology, the region is losing its edge as people stream to the Western and Southern United States, according to recent analysis from Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies. Using data from a variety of sources, researchers at the Center analyzed the levels and sources of population change in the Northeast region, the New England and Middle Atlantic divisions, as well as population trends across the rest of the country, including the South, West and Midwest, closely examining patterns in individual Northeast states during the decade of the 1990s. While the Northeast region experienced the largest wave of new foreign immigration in its history over the past decade (nearly 3.1 million new immigrants arrived in the Northeast during the 1990s), its population increased by only 2.785 million or 5.5 percent, indicating that immigrant arrivals actually made up for the dramatic population outflow from the Northeastern states.

This regional rate of growth in the Northeast was well below the nation's 13.2 percent overall population growth rate and was the lowest among the major geographic regions, including the Midwest, the South and the West. A relatively low rate of natural increase in the population (births exceeding deaths) was one factor responsible for the below average growth rate, but the main culprit was the high level of net out-migration from the region and six of the nine states. During the 1990s, somewhere between 2.7 and 3.2 million more people left the Northeast region than came from other regions. The details of the study are available in the full report, Moving Out and Moving In: Out-migration and Foreign Immigration in the Northeast Region and New England During the 1990s, which was funded by the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation.

Key findings of the study:

"The slow growth of the Northeast region's population during the 1990s and its changing demographic composition have a number of important political and economic consequences for our region," said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies. "The Northeast will lose political clout on a variety of federal issues without a strong population base to support representation, reducing the number of delegates to the House of Representatives by five seats - one in Connecticut, two in New York and two in Pennsylvania - as well as in the Electoral College. Additionally, high levels of out-migration among the young and well educated combined with the slow growth and aging of the region's working-age population will place severe labor supply constraints on the region as the economic recovery takes hold. The large underestimated influx of immigrants, many of whom have limited formal schooling and English-speaking skills, will pose a number of assimilation challenges to our region's schools, employers, and communities. Because of this much-changed demographic, the Northeast faces a number of challenges now. Our leaders need to address these issues to prepare for the future."

"In the absence of these high levels of new foreign immigration, the Northeast would have experienced negative population growth for the first time in its history," said Nathan Pond, co-author of the study.

The high levels of domestic out-migration from the Northeast should be viewed as a major policy concern by the region's economic policymakers, Sum said, given the demographic composition of these out-migrants - many were young and well-educated - and the large numbers involved.

"The Northeast region's young adults expanded upon Horace Greeley's nineteenth century advice - 'Go West, young man' - and went both South and West over the decade in large numbers," he said. Future research reports will focus on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and national origins of the immigrant population, their language proficiencies, and their labor force and employment behaviors and problems.
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To receive a full copy of the report, please visit our web site (http://www.nupr.neu.edu/07-02/movingout.html) or call 617-373-5455.

Northeastern University, a private research institution located in Boston, Massachusetts, is a world leader in practice-oriented education. Building on its flagship cooperative education program, Northeastern links classroom learning with workplace experience and integrates professional preparation with study in the liberal arts and sciences. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu

Northeastern University

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