Will Emigres from the Coasts Change Us -- Or Are They Like Us?


Florida and Texas are experiencing dramatic results from the covid-induced diaspora of many thousands of Americans from the coasts to the American heartland. Gaggles of disenchanted New Yorkers are flocking to Florida these days, and legions of tech workers from Silicon Valley are disembarking for Austin.

This is putting real humans into a prospective development that began as soon as the pandemic, social unrest and other dynamics started dislodging Americans across the country. The question was: Will coastal denizens coming to Flyover Country change us, or are they coming here because they’re like us?

In the heartland, where states are a mix of blue and purple and red, the prospect of a Great Reshuffling raised concerns whether emigres from the coasts would be a cultural fit for our small towns, suburbs and cities -- even while their politics might be all over the map.

But such questions largely have been suspended because, as of now, no strong post-pandemic patterns have emerged in movements to most of flyover country in the wake of the coronavirus shutdowns, the rise of remote work and society’s general restlessness. And the migration and integration that’s occurred so far appears to have reinforced, rather than disturbed, the social and cultural norms of the places in our region where people are moving.

The Modest Adjustment

One reason is the Great Reshuffling has turned out more like the Modest Adjustment in where Americans actually choose to live. Initial expectations about the volume of migrants may have been unrealistic; new migration and living patterns may be taking longer than anticipated to develop – or both.

“The biggest migratory flows so far have been within metro areas,” demographer Joel Kotkin told me. For it turns out that when people determined to leave some of the big, discredited coastal cities where they were living, most simply preferred to move out to suburbs and exurbs of the same metropolitan areas – not to Nebraska or Arkansas or Indiana.

Some heartland outposts have tried hard to insert themselves into the Great Reshuffling, yielding some encouraging results. In Berrien County in the southwestern corner of the state, for example, the Cornerstone Alliance has seen more than 2,500 people apply for grants of $10,000 that are available to them if they’re a remote worker and move to the area from out of state, and buy or build a house there – and $15,000 if they also enroll kids in public schools.

“There’s long-term opportunity here,” said Rob Cleveland, executive director of the alliance, which has private funding for its Move to Michigan program. “We’ve got great manufacturing jobs and other companies, we’ve got a tourism economy, and we’ve spent decades building the amenities that people want in where they’re going to choose to live.”

Read the rest of this piece at Flyover Coalition.

Dale Buss is founder and executive director of The Flyover Coalition, a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping revitalize and promote the economy, companies and people of the region between the Appalachians and Rockies, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes. He is a long-time author, journalist, and magazine and newspaper editor, and contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and many other publications. Buss is a Wisconsin native who lives in Michigan and has also lived in Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida.