What the Census Says About Our Economic Future

The political implications of Tuesday's numbers are only half the story

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The first installment of 2010 U.S. Census data--released on Tuesday--contained better news for Republicans than Democrats, with population changes translating into more House seats for red states like Texas and fewer seats for blue states like Massachusetts. But what do the numbers tell us about the state and direction of our economy?

  • Great Recession Has Taken A Toll, explains Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman. Over the last decade, he notes, America experienced its slowest growth since the Great Depression, with U.S. population increasing by only 10 percent in an economic climate inhospitable to high birth rates and immigration. Sunbelt states would have gained even more in population had it not been for the housing and job market crashes, Hartman adds. Meanwhile, a growing Hispanic population of immigrants and first-generation Americans in the South is "poised to spend heavily in coming years on higher education, first homes, and all the consumer goods needed to fill them."
  • Slow Population Growth Could Be Good Thing, writes Stephen Gandel at Time:

A number of economists ... are worried about the lack of inflation and income growth in the United States. Fewer workers could drive up salaries. What's more, fewer new Americans might help slow government spending. That may curtail the rising US federal debt, which many think will soon cause interest rates to jump and hold down US GDP growth.

  • There Is A Growing Income Gap, claims Dante Chinni at PBS. The next set of Census numbers, he says, will "show America's haves increasingly find themselves living in different places than its have-nots. The decline of manufacturing and construction jobs brought on by the recession and the housing bust means education is the key to success in most sectors of the American economy."
  • Fastest-Growing States Have No Income Tax, observes Michael Barone at The Washington Examiner:

Growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions, the Midwest and New England.

Altogether, 35 percent of the nation's total population growth occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19 percent of total population at the beginning of the decade.

  • It's Not That Simple, counters Simon Maloy at Media Matters: "To hear some conservatives talk about it, this population growth is a result of conservative-minded Americans abandoning the quasi-socialist tyranny of the blue states for the low-tax, supply-side Shangri-la of the red states." Maloy points to Texas as an example, noting that much of its 20 percent population growth over the last decade can be attributed to one demographic group: Hispanics.
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