From New Geography:
They may not win their first championship against Miami’s evil empire, but the Oklahoma City Thunder have helped to put a spotlight on what may well be the most surprising success story of 21st century America: the revival of the Great Plains. Once widely dismissed as the ultimate in flyover country, the Plains states have outperformed the national average for the past decade by virtually every key measure of vitality — from population, income and GDP growth to unemployment — and show no sign of slowing down.
It’s a historic turnaround. For decades, the East Coast media has portrayed the vast region between Texas and the Dakotas as a desiccated landscape of emptying towns, meth labs and right-wing “clingers.” Just five years ago, The New York Times described the Plains as “not far from forsaken.”
Many in the media and academia embraced Deborah and Frank Popper’s notion that the whole region should be abandoned for “a Buffalo commons.” The Great Plains, the East Coast academics concluded, represents “the largest, longest-running agricultural and environmental miscalculation in American history” and boldly predicted the area would “become almost totally depopulated.”
Yet a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion. Rising commodity prices, the tapping of shale gas and oil formations and an unheralded shift of industry and people into the interior has propelled the Plains economy through the Great Recession.
Since 2000, the Plains’ population has grown 14%, well above the national rate of 9%. This has been driven by migration from the coasts, particularly Southern California, to the region’s cities and towns. Contrary to perceptions of the area as a wind-swept old-age home, demographer Ali Modarres has found that the vast majority of the newcomers are between 20 and 35.
Oklahoma City epitomizes these trends. Over the last decade, the city’s population expanded 14%, roughly three times as fast as the San Francisco area and more than four times the rate of growth of New York or Los Angeles. Between 2010 and 2011 OKC ranked 10th out of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas in terms of rate of net growth.
Nothing more reflects the changing fortunes of Oklahoma City than the strong net migration from many coastal communities, notably Los Angeles and Riverside, a historic reversal of the great “Okie” migration of the 1920s and 1930s. In the past decade, over 20,000 more Californians have migrated to Oklahoma than the other way around. OKC has even experienced a small net migration from the Heat’s South Florida stomping grounds....MORE