Around Aug. 18, 2004, Richard L. Cole Jr. and his wife, Barbara, looking to retire to a small town where there’s plenty to do, moved from suburban Philadelphia to The Villages, the 18,000-acre development straddling Lake, Sumter and Marion counties in Central Florida.
On that August day, the Coles helped make up the 1,890 people who move to Florida every day [see “The Arithmetic of Growth,” left]. “The roads were crowded,” Richard Cole deadpans.
They’ll stay that way. For a half-century, Florida has trailed only California in net migration, averaging 3 million in population growth during each of the last three decades. This decade will bring the “largest absolute population increase of any decade in Florida’s history” — another 3.6 million, reports Stanley K. Smith, director of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. In just four years, Florida will pass New York as the third-largest state.
So who are all these people flooding into Florida?
Some groups stand out for their distinctiveness: Finns moving into Lake Worth, Nigerians into Tallahassee, Vietnamese into Orange County and Russians into Broward. But immigrants from abroad make up only 26% of Florida newcomers. And while a Hindu temple in southwest Broward or a mosque in Central Florida signals a diffusion of sources, the nations that contribute the largest numbers to Florida’s growth are all from this hemisphere — in descending order, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Colombia and Jamaica.
The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico falls between Cuba and Mexico in the ranking of immigrants’ origins. Some Puerto Ricans are retiring here from other parts of the country, says Florida State University emeritus professor Morton D. Winsberg, author of the “Atlas of Race, Ancestry, and Religion in 21st-Century Florida,” scheduled for release this month by the University of Florida Press.
Most newcomers, however, still resemble the Coles. Tim Chapin, a FSU urban and regional planning professor, says new Floridians tend to be the “usual suspects” — Rust-Belters getting out of the cold.
Yet while the broad outlines of in-migration trends remain somewhat the same, a more finely detailed look at migration to Florida reveals nuances that are reshaping the state’s population and economy. The following trends emerge based on interviews with Winsberg, Smith and others and information gleaned from the U.S. Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service.
By 2030, 25% of Florida’s population will be Hispanic, up from less than 17% now, and one in four Floridians will be over age 65.
• Trend: Hispanic Migration
The predominance of the state’s largest Hispanic group — 688,000 Cubans — waned from 55% of the state’s Hispanics in 1980 to 31% in 2000 as Mexicans and others moved in. From 2000-04, four Florida cities were among the 10 U.S. cities with the fastest-growing Hispanic populations, according to a new Brookings Institution report: Cape Coral/Fort Myers saw a 55.4% jump in Hispanic residents; Naples/Marco Island, Lakeland and Sarasota/Bradenton all saw increases of more than 38%. By 2030, a fourth of the state’s population will be Hispanic, compared to one in six now, projects Stanley K. Smith, director of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Miami-Dade’s Hispanic population will be around 70%, while The Villages will have only 15%. Central American newcomers tend to be less well-off than Brazilians, Venezuelans, Colombians and Ecuadorians, says FSU professor Morton Winsberg.
• Trend: Hispanic Jewish MigrationBy 2004, the Hispanic Jewish population in Miami-Dade nearly doubled from 5,300 adults in 1994 to 9,500 adults, says Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami. He found three of 10 adult Jews in Miami-Dade were foreign-born — 12% of them come from Latin America. Among the Latins, 29% were from Cuba, 18% from Argentina, 16% from Colombia, 15% from Venezuela.
• Trend: Diverse Origins
A noticeable number of Bosnians have moved to Jacksonville, making them second only to Filipinos among foreign-born nationalities in the 2000 Census. The inflow stems from refugees placed there through local sponsoring churches by Lutheran Services Florida. Such pioneers often lead to what demographers call chain migrations. The agency also places Somalis, Bosnians, Sudanese and Vietnamese around Tampa and Orlando, says Joy Margolis of Lutheran Services.
• Trend: The End of the African-American Decline
One hundred years ago, blacks made up 44% of Florida’s population, a share that dropped as more whites migrated here. The percentage of blacks appears to have bottomed at 14% in 1990. FSU professor Morton Winsberg says Orlando is one of only four Southern cities — the others are Atlanta, Charlotte and Dallas — favored by American blacks for relocation. Indeed, a recent Brookings Institution report shows that the black populations of Tampa, which increased by 14%, and Orlando, which jumped 18.4%, were among the 10 fastest-growing black populations in the country from 2000-04.
Why Are They Coming?• Trend: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
BEBR’s Stanley Smith finds that for people under 55, jobs are the major draw to Florida, which routinely leads the nation in job growth. “What it boils down to is economic opportunity,” says FSU professor Tim Chapin.
Where Are They Coming From?
• Trend: Restless in Florida
The leading point of origin for migrants to all but a handful of Florida counties is another county in Florida. For instance, the top four counties contributing to the growth of booming St. Lucie County in 2004, according to the IRS data, are all to the south. Miami-Dade through Martin sent St. Lucie 9,037 that year, or 25 per day.
The pattern repeats throughout Florida. “Our No. 1 state of origin for a number of years, and by a significant margin, is Florida itself,” says Gary Lester, vice president for community relations at The Villages, a Central Florida development. Take New Yorker-rich Miami-Dade, for example. According to the IRS, for the most recent years available, 2003-04, the total moving from Manhattan and the other New York boroughs into Miami-Dade was 4,350 — 12 New Yorkers a day. The total from Broward moving into Miami-Dade over the same period? 14,347.
• Trend: Ins and Outs
IN: Of the top 10 states contributing new Florida residents in 2004, three are in the Sun Belt — Georgia, California and North Carolina. Virginia is 11th.
OUT: Those leaving Florida like the Sun Belt too: Georgia has been the top out-migration state for four decades. New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the Northern states among the top 10 destinations for people leaving Florida.
• Trend: Corridors
The historic patterns — Northeasterners migrating down I-95 to Southeast Florida and Midwesterners down I-75 to the Gulf Coast — are blurring but still hold true.
• Trend: Suburb to Suburb
Miami-Dade is one of the rare Florida counties in which a Northeast urban core — Manhattan — is still the leading out-of-state point of origin, according to IRS data. Most Florida counties’ leading out-of-state sources are suburban counties like Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island in New York.
Where Are They Coming From?
• Trend: A Northward Drift
“The frontier of the aged population is clearly moving into North Florida,” says FSU professor Morton Winsberg. Take Richard and Barbara Cole. Once members of the administration of former Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh, they chose Central Florida’s rolling hills and shade trees over South Florida’s sand, palms and congestion, even though they had a residence in the “touristy” Keys. “We were looking for a place that’s home,” says Richard Cole, a retired lawyer. Miami-Dade and Broward are showing absolute declines in the number of white, non-Hispanic elderly, Winsberg says.
The exception is a continued strong Jewish retiree migration to South Florida. Interestingly, the Jewish population of Boynton Beach in Palm Beach County has reached 37,000, up from 9,300 in 1987. “There’s more Jews in Boynton than there are in St. Louis,” says Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami. Overall, Southeast Florida will continue to grow, but not as fast as Central and North Florida, diminishing its relative political strength in Florida. Midwesterners have become less of a growth contributor to Florida as more opt to retire in the West, Texas coast and Arkansas.
Are They Rich or Poor?
• Trend: the Link between Income and Destination
There is plenty to ponder in the IRS data on the income levels of people moving in and out of Florida. For those moving to Florida from outside the state, the trends seems to indicate that lower-wage people seeking service jobs are migrating to the state’s major urban centers, while higher income retirees prefer less developed, more suburban regions. To wit:
4 Overall, most in-migrants make less than the people who already live here. Only Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota and the District of Columbia send people to Florida whose median adjusted gross income — as defined by the IRS — was higher than that of people already here.
But if you compare in-migrants’ incomes with the incomes of people leaving Florida, that trend develops wrinkles.
In Florida’s most urban counties — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Duval, Broward and Orange — in-migrants tend to earn somewhat less than those leaving. The gap ranges from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Conclusions are difficult to draw but could reflect arrivals’ pursuit of job opportunities and the classic sprawl pattern of departers leaving for more affluent counties beyond the urban cores.
In most other counties in the state, however — including almost all the faster-growing suburban counties —in-migrants tend to have higher incomes than the people moving out of those counties. The gap is particularly noticeable in quick-developing Flagler and St. Johns counties in Northeast Florida, where those moving in have median adjusted incomes $9,000 higher than those leaving. That dynamic appears to be pushed particularly by out-of-state people with good incomes, perhaps high-income retirees. The counties that encompass The Villages retirement community, for example, show a pronounced higher-income-in, lower-income-out disparity.
How Long Will It Last?
There are questions about the migration flows into Florida, particularly the rates of ebb and flow. Over time, repeats of the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons could affect migration. High housing prices could deter growth. In some markets, “even our corporate transferees, and even some at the executive level, aren’t able to purchase homes with the amenities they want,” says Glenda Philpot, statewide senior vice president of corporate relocations for Sarasota-based Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate.
The state will undoubtedly grow, adding to its importance in the House of Representatives and presidential elections. Additionally, as we grow, we’ll be growing older — fast — which raises a senior center full of implications [“The Age Wave,” December 1999, FloridaTrend.com]. One in four Floridians will be over 65 in 2030, says BEBR’s Stanley Smith, while the proportion of the state’s population in their working years will fall fast too, to 58% in 2030.
And then there’s the question of where to put the projected 25.5 million people we will have here in 2030. Florida governor, growth fan and in-migrant Jeb Bush, commenting on the need to engineer solutions to the impact of growth on the ecosystem, says: “I don’t think God created Florida with 17 million growing to 25 million people in mind.”
Sources for income, population and age charts on following pages: Woods & Poole Economics Inc., Washington, D.C. Copyright 2005. Woods & Poole does not guarantee the accuracy of this data. The use of this data and the conclusions drawn from it are solely the responsibility of Florida Trend. Population data include military stationed in Florida, college residents and inmates. Jobs data measure full- and part-time jobs and proprietors and include farmworkers. Property income includes rent, dividend and interest payments. Transfer income includes Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance. Unemployment data are from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.