The Surprising Midwestern Boom

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The Surprising Midwestern Boom

As Demographer, Joel Kotkin observes, “The Midwest is booming, but not where you might think. Kansas City, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Grand Rapids, and Des Moines are the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest—lapping bigger hubs like Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and even Chicago -- which are still suffering from stagnant economies and slow or even negative population growth.”

Demographic evidence since 2010 shows that these Midwestern “comeback towns” are coming on strong, even as America’s high-priced “superstar” cities are fading. For instance, New York City’s population growth, which was impressive earlier in this decade, now ranks among the lowest in the nation. And last year, Brooklyn, the reinvented hipster capital, suffered its first population decline since 2006. The same can be said of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago. None grew faster in 2017 than the 0.6 percent average growth rate for the 107 largest metro areas.

Meanwhile, the burgeoning population in places like Des Moines, which grew by 1.76 percent last year, is being driven by domestic out-migration from the superstar cities. In 2017, nearly three times as many domestic migrants escaped New York as in 2011. Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as San Francisco and San Jose experienced sharp rises in domestic out-migration. The biggest percentage declines were found in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and, remarkably, San Jose, which was worst among the 53 metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million. Even the formerly booming San Francisco metropolitan area, which had been attracting domestic migrants from 2010 through 2015, experienced a considerably higher rate of out-migration than Rust Belt hard cases like Detroit, Buffalo, or Cleveland. The coasts’ loss ended up, to some extent, as gains for places like Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Columbus.

The biggest factor is high housing costs, sometimes three times higher adjusted for income compared to the rising Midwest cities, which make attaining homeownership all but impossible. Once people get to the age that most want to settle down and start a family, they see buying a home as impossible, unless of course they can cash out of an successful become a paid subscriber for full access.
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