Sunshine Is Golden: Florida has reversed its demographic decline
One of the leading demographic stories of the past decade was Florida’s population slump. But a surprising story of the new decade is Florida’s population rebound. Of all the “bubble states”—those slammed hardest by the housing market’s collapse—only the Sunshine State has shown robust signs of recovery in domestic migration.
On a percentage basis, no large state grew more between World War II and the 2008 crash than Florida. The 1950 census counted 2.8 million Florida residents. By 2000, the population had swelled to 16 million. The expansion continued through 2005, and Florida seemed poised to replace New York as the nation’s third most populous state in the 2010 census. But the end of the decade saw some of Florida’s slowest growth in years, and when the census was performed, the state remained Number Four.
A major reason for the slowdown was Florida’s housing bubble, one of the biggest in the United States. One way of measuring housing affordability is the “median multiple” measurement, the ratio of an area’s median house price to its median annual household income; in normal circumstances, it hovers around 3.0. But the Miami metropolitan area, as housing prices reached their peak in 2006, had a median multiple more than double that. In the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Orlando metropolitan areas, the measurement was more than 60 percent higher than normal.
The steep housing prices began to drive Florida residents away. During the second half of the decade, demographers began noting the “halfback” phenomenon: new Floridians moving not all the way back to their states of origin but “halfway back”—to North and South Carolina, where the cost of living was considerably lower. In 2006, net domestic migration to North and South Carolina—that is, the number of people entering those states from other states, minus the number leaving—jumped 50 and 60 percent, respectively, above the 2005 level; both Carolinas maintained almost the new level of migration the following year. Domestic migration to Georgia doubled in 2006 and remained higher than the historical average for another year before returning to pre-2006 levels in 2008 and 2009.