RI Population: Starting Saturday on a Worrying Note

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Over my habitual Saturday morning coffee and pancakes, I perused Ted Nesi’s weekly column and came across this intriguing item:

Moody’s latest Rhode Island economic outlook, presented this week at the twice-annual revenue conference, is a mixed bag. … Other pluses: the job market and personal income both appear to be improving, and net migration (residents moving in versus moving out) turned positive in 2014 for the first time in a decade.

The downsides are middle-income jobs and home sales (and I continue to believe the overall employment numbers are greatly overstated).  But what about that net migration?  Slide 23 of the Moody’s presentation does indeed show positive migration, although it isn’t clear what scale the numbers are on or why they don’t match up with numbers directly from the U.S. Census.

Population is a limited measure, though.  A more critical question, for a struggling state, is: Who is coming and who is going?  Unfortunately, the IRS taxpayer migration data for 2014 isn’t online, for the moment, and detailed state-level data from the Census isn’t out for that year, yet.  Still, the Census does have the population estimates broken out by “components of change,” with some high-level detail about why people came and went.

From 2013 to 2014, the Census estimates that 1,375 more children were born in the state than people died, but that’s not the detail we’re interested in.  Under “net migration,” the data does show 903 more people coming here from elsewhere than the reverse, but the “where” is important.  When it comes to domestic migration — that is, people moving from one state to another — Rhode Island lost 3,387 residents.  International migration that makes up the difference, with 4,290 more people coming to Rhode Island from other countries than emigrating.

Obviously, the world is full of varied people, so any assumptions made at this level are just that: assumptions.  Still, recalling my observation, in August, that the increase of students in Providence schools came almost entirely from Hispanics who need extra help with English, the picture comes into focus pretty well.  The Census’s FactFinder tool can fill in some of the details.  From 2009 to 2013 — over the course of just four years — the percentage of children living in households receiving cash assistance increased by more than 50%.

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To deepen the picture a little, consider that the percentage of all families receiving public assistance increased by just 17%.  That’s still a big increase, but it suggests that Rhode Island’s population growth is in large part attributable to migration of poor, young families from countries to the south of the United States.

One needn’t be xenophobic to worry about the consequences of this demographic shift on the well-being of Rhode Islanders overall.  If Rhode Island’s economy were healthy and was therefore able to accommodate foreign families and empower them to lift themselves up, that would be wonderful.  More likely, though, like Lawrence, MA, we’ll continue to see government bring in new clients to turn RI into a company state, and somebody’s got to pay the bill.



  • Inverse Fox Guy

    We need more anchor babies like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio!

    • Mike678

      Perhaps we need less trolls?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “One needn’t be xenophobic” No, but one might wonder, where is Xenophon and his 10,000 when we really need him?

    • Rhett Hardwick

      One might consider South Africa. When the Dutch settled there it was essentially unpopulated, other than a few Hottentots living in the woods. As more Europeans settled, creating jobs and opportunity, blacks migrated there and became the majority. Now, the Europeans are a despised minority.

      • Mike678

        And how is that working out for them?

        I’m not a fan of wiki, but it is quick:

        “There has been a large degree of human capital flight from South Africa in recent years.[69][70] South Africa’s Bureau of Statistics estimates that between 1 million and 1.6 million people in skilled, professional, and managerial occupations have emigrated since 1994 and that, for every emigrant, 10 unskilled people lose their jobs.[69] There are a range of causes cited for the migration of skilled South Africans.

        In mid-1998, the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) undertook a study to examine and assess the range of factors that contribute to skilled South Africans’ desire to leave the country: Among the reasons cited for wishing to leave the country was the declining quality of life and high levels of crime. Furthermore, the government’s affirmative action policy was identified as another factor influencing the emigration of skilled white South Africans. The results of the survey indicate that skilled whites are strongly opposed to this policy and the arguments advanced in support of it.”

        Also look to Zimbabwe. Or Detroit…..

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