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December 29, 2005

Make Room!

The good ship Cascadia has another 227,000 passengers.

The US Census Bureau has issued population estimates for the states, which allow us to give an updated Cascadian population tally. As of July 1, 2005, the region – counting British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington – had 15.6 million people. (Adding western Montana, southeast Alaska, and northwestern California pushes that figure up by another million or so, but running the county-by-county figures takes more time than I’ve got at the moment.)

The (four main jurisdictions of the) region added 227,000 inhabitants over the preceding 12 months. That's about the number that live in greater Olympia, Washinton. And it's a 1.5 percent increase, the largest since 1997.

Total_pop_1

The resurgence stemmed from rising domestic migration into the region. Natural increase (births minus deaths) remained stable at around 70,000 per year, as did international migration at around 50,000 per year. (International migration is hard to tally reliably at present. As the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey comes online, we’ll be able to track it better.)

The extra 227,000 Cascadians, especially the adult migrants, bring new resource consumption, pollution, and traffic as they arrive. But just to be unpredictable today, let me point out that they also bring new talents, productivity, and resources with them.

One dimension of in-migration that’s little noted is the way that growing populations allow more-rapid transformation of metropolitan areas. Cities that don’t have growing populations do not have many opportunities to build complete, compact communities, filling in their urban form. And compact communities can actually reduce resource consumption among their residents. It’s conceivable, in fact, that adding population--if it goes into the right kinds of smart-growth neighborhoods--might lead to such large per-person reductions in resource consumption that the aggregate total remains unchanged or even diminishes.

So migration brings big challenges (about which there’s more here) but it also brings opportunities.

Posted by Alan Durning | Permalink

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