The case for regional-based, heartland visas

• U.S. population growth has fallen to 80-year lows. The country now adds approximately 900,000 fewer people each year than it did in the early 2000s.

• The last decade marks the first time in the past century that the United States has experienced low population growth and low prime working age growth on a sustained basis at the same time.

• Uneven population growth is leaving more places behind. 86% of counties now grow more slowly than the nation as a whole, up from 64% in the 1990s.

• In total, 61 million Americans live in counties with stagnant or shrinking populations and 38 million live in the 41% of U.S. counties experiencing rates of demographic decline similar to Japan’s.

• 80% of U.S. counties, home to 149 million Americans, lost prime working age adults from 2007 to 2017, and 65% will again over the next decade.

• By 2037, two-thirds of U.S. counties will contain fewer prime working age adults than they did in 1997, even though the country will add 24.1 million prime working age adults and 98.8 million people in total over that same period.

• Population decline affects communities in every state. Half of U.S. states lost prime working age adults from 2007-2017. 43% of counties in the average state lost population in that same time period, and 76% lost prime working age adults.

• Shrinking places are also aging the most rapidly. By 2027, 26% of the population in the fastest shrinking counties will be 65 and older compared to 20% nationwide.

• Population loss is hitting many places with already weak socioeconomic foundations. The share of the adult population with at least a bachelor’s degree in the bottom decile of population loss is half that in the top decile of population growth. Educational attainment in the fastest shrinking counties is on average equivalent to that of Mexico today or the United States in 1978.

• Population loss itself perpetuates economic decline. Its deleterious effects on housing markets, local government finances, productivity, and dynamism make it harder for communities to bounce back. For example, this analysis found that a 1 percentage point decline in a county’s population growth rate is associated with a 2-3 percentage point decline in its startup rate over the past decade.

That is the opening of a new study by Adam Ozimek of Moody’s Analytics with Kenan Fikri and John Lettieri of Economic Innovation Group.


Come on, red states get your lazy asses in gear. Heartland? More like heart attack land. Like Luke Perry dead of a stroke at 50.

Why don't these states attract Amazon with a nice deal? NYC is too good for them so now is the time to make a move.

"Why don't these states attract Amazon with a nice deal?"

Because Bezos doesn't want to live in those places, like pretty much everyone else it seems.

Don't put them in the heartland, put them in Pelosi's house. Put themn in the mansions of Hollywood stars. Let them deal with the TB and Hep-C and rapes and murders and child sex abuse.

Come on commenters, read the article. The states most affected are Illinois, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire. Northeast and Midwest are most affected. Regardless, importing central american and african refugees is going to make the problem worse, not better. The population loss is a symptom, not the cause of the problem.

Red states really need to pull their weight or we cut them loose to the Canadians. There will be no mercy shown.

Seems perfectly reasonable and would provide a dramatically different immigrant experience than what is experienced in major cities and the southern border states. Immigrants assimilate relatively well in the US, but this would probably lead to faster assimilation.

If it’s unconstitutional to force people on welfare to live in low cost-of-living areas of the country, it’s unconstitutional to do the same with immigrants. One immigrant who doesn’t like Montana sues and then the whole system falls apart and the millions we’ve let in all move to NYC and SF at once.

Perfect! They move right into the neighborhoods of the elite!

Fewer people means less pollution means less climate change.

Encourage your children to stop breeding before it's too late for the animal kingdom.

It's impossible to stop immigrants from moving to the United States. If we build a 50 foot wall, they'll just get a 51 foot ladder.

On the other hand, if we let immigrants in and tell them they have to live in Akron for the rest of their lives, they'll obediently stay in Akron.

Why don't the incompetent people of Akron make their communities better so that they don't need the hard work of immigrants? Lazy sons of bitches. Originally I was against more immigration but if the average American in the hinterlands has the IQ of a pair of saggy boobs and the work ethic of a six pack of Budweiser, open the damn flood gates I say.

"By 1929, on the brink of the Depression, 75 percent of all American tires were Akron‐made"

Were Akronites lazy then or no?

Furthermore, the rest of the economy gets along just fine on its tire-needs without any of them needing to be made in Akron anymore. Since that's the case, do we need people to be moving there?

I sit on my ass today watching ESPN eating flaming hot cheetos and drinking some warm beer because my grandfather built skyscrapers in his day. I'm definitely not lazy.

Watching the Zips battle the Toledo Rockets and other key Rust-Belt foes for MAC supremacy!

A feisty gang of Somali pirates, masquerading as an immigrant family just searching for a better life, turns a quiet Akron neighborhood upside down in this rollicking new sitcom, (AK)47 Walnut Street!

If you bring them to Akron initially but don't force them to live there permanently, a good percentage will stay anyway.

That was the experience in Canada and Australia (page 36 in the linked study). It was also the experience in Denmark (#2 in this February MR post), which from 1986 to 1998 randomly assigned newly arrived refugees to different municipalities, and found that 80% of them were still living in that location twenty years later. Inertia is a powerful force.

Mandatory residence would indeed just lead to illegal "internal immigration". That's been the case in every country that has internal passports and residence permits, and America would add the twist of sanctuary cities sabotaging the system to attract skilled labor. However if restrictions expired automatically after X number of years, then there would be an incentive to abide by the rules and just run out the clock.

America has its own experience with voluntary placement. It ended with every single boat person living within ten blocks of each other.

Why would you ignore this far more salient example.

Some Vietnamese settled along the Gulf Coast and became shrimp fisherman. Some went to California and elsewhere. Which ten-block radius do they all live in? You're being silly.

You seem to have some difficulty understanding rhetorical hyperbole.

About 70% of the Vietnamese community being settled in either Southern California or 8 highly specific small urban areas probably meets any sane expectation for what SH is (hyperbolically) describing...

And you're missing the broader point I raised: Vietnamese newcomers settling along the Gulf Coast as shrimp fishermen, for the long term and in significant numbers, was in fact a "regional based" success story in the end, although there was initially some friction.

SH's missing the mark was more than just hyperbole. "Ten blocks" means city blocks, implying an exclusively urban setting. Suburbs don't have rectilinear blocks, and smaller towns don't have ten of them.

Someone should discover how the national distribution of Chinese restaurants is accomplished. It seems that every small town has one or maybe two Chinese restaurants, usually one establishment less than the number of pizza parlors. Is there an office somewhere that doles out Chinese restaurant opportunities? There must be a few smaller, ignored towns that don't have a Chinese restaurant. They are the towns that are in trouble. Unavailability of Chinese food in mid-America is the sign of economic catastrophe.

I did a lease for one such in a small town in Louisiana. The proprietors spoke very little English. I dealt with a Chinese lawyer in NYC . There is some multi-tentacled behemoth behind all that.

One road, one belt baby!

Kind of like Indians with motels and news stands (I know, "what's a news stand?"). Actually US franchises, like Dunkin Donuts, now seem to be a more widespread assimilation route than ethnic restaurants.

Judging by real estate prices, it sure looks like immigrants to Canada are largely going to the metro areas of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, rather than to small towns like Medicine Hat.

Sure. Let's pour immigrants into the heartland. Maybe they will susequently secede and we can have nations within the nation.

What a dumb idea.

Population is already flowing out of the big cities and crowded states into the less populated areas. Give it time and those areas will change.

"Maybe they will susequently secede and we can have nations within the nation."
We had that over 150 years ago. But it wasn't the immigrants that wanted secession.

The fact that military units in New York had to routinely fire on immigrant mobs suggests that they would have prefered it to the alternative of fighting and dying to prevent it.

How odd that immigrants seeking a new, more free life, many from countries with conscription, would vociferously object to being made into cannon fodder over an argument in which they had no interest.

"An argument in which they had no interest" is an unusual way to present the secession of the southern states and the maintenance of slavery.

Such is the republic of shared values that MR posters extol as easily absorbing and assimilating all migrants (and then in the same breath they decry the values of the unassimilable "Scots-Irish" who mainly exist in their imaginations).

It is?

"David Birdsell, dean of the school of public and international affairs at Baruch College, notes that by 2040, about 70% of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states," Seib wrote. "They will have only 30 senators representing them, while the remaining 30% of Americans will have 70 senators representing them."

Great! That is good news!

1. Those 15 states will only have 30 senators - it will make it harder for them to destroy the other 35 (40 according to Obama)!

2. We in the the other 35 will have more space!

3. The 26 can have the crime, crowding, pollution, and chaos of Babel!

Who cares what Birdsell is selling? He's yet another ivory tower dwelling elite, just like the ones that predicted Trump couldn't win and failed to predict 2008.

Nobody cares.

3. The 15 can have ...

Senators represent states, not people.

"Population is already flowing out of the big cities and crowded states into the less populated areas."

Why are you sofa king stupid? Did you even read the post you are commenting on? Does partisan hackery lower IQ or do you need a low IQ to post like this?

His Brazilian wife is leaving him. I disagree 1000% of his views but I'll cut the guy some slack.

Not sure many non-Europeans are going to feel welcome in the areas of America that are vocally and politically hostile to non-white immigration: rural, white, old, left behind and clannish.

Further, economic immigrants (those who are moving to America for greater financial opportunity) will move to large cities as soon as their visa will allow.

You underestimate the grit of immigrants. A middle eastern family escaping a murderous regime can easily deal with cranky, old racists whose threats never go further than angry, non-PC words. They don't need to feel welcomed just as long as they are not physically attacked or murdered. These people aren't snowflakes.

I think most of the American left prefers murderous regimes to white people. "Brown or not brown" is the key metric.

American Left have Bernie Sanders, a white guy, and Joe Biden, another white guy, as their top running politicians. They seem to quite like white people. On the other hand, Trump and his supporters can't get enough Putin, Kim Jong-Un, and The House of Saud. If anybody loves murderous regimes .......

Scotty and Logan put their bigotry out for all to see!

The MAGAs are correct!

Ah, the remarked upon "clannish" ways of Minnesota, Wyoming, Kansas and Colorado?

Don't confuse them with facts (embedded within sarcasm). They have their prejudices and they are sticking to them!

"Not sure many non-Europeans are going to feel welcome in the areas of America that are vocally and politically hostile to non-white immigration"

Sounds like you're getting your 'flyover country' information from fake articles by multi-award-winning Der Spiegel investigative journalists.

Progressive policies disincentivize family formation in general and large families in particular. Correcting the effects of that through immigration is policy as ponzi scheme.

"They will pay my pension," croaked the last woke Boomer as the nursing home staff led him to the drainage ditch.

90% of immigrants to Australia settle in Sydney & Melbourne.

Isn't the rest of Australia basically a desert...

Though I am not convinced, I love the fact this idea is proposed and discussed.
My problem with it is that an immigrant is a resource that should be allocated in the most effective way, and not necessarily doing it this way would do so.
Why not allow all immigrants (of course only those that when in Rome do as Romans do) to go where they can produce the most, and then let everyone benefit, by for instance all revenues from taxes on immigrants going to help fund a universal basic income?

I like the idea and think we should try it, as opposed to letting theoretical objections rule it out .

Don't worry, wheat farmers grow to be 149 years old on average.

As temperatures rise, people will migrate north, filling the empty spaces. Indeed, I'm amazed by the continued migration south; I sometimes think Charleston will sink any day from the added weight, a city where much of it is already at or below the current sea level. The same goes for Tampa and Miami and Houston. There was a time when people were more responsive to the climate, such as the great migration from the heartland to the west coast during periods of recurring drought. Today's climate is more artificial than in the past, today's jobs are less dependent on the climate, and today people are less responsive to the climate. Of course, attitudes can change with the weather: a Hurricane Maria or a Hurricane Michael can convert sunny paradise into a waste land in a matter of hours. If the people migrating to areas that are vulnerable to climate change and hurricanes were charged insurance rates commensurate with the risk, they might consider migrating to the empty spaces that are not subject to those risks. In time, I suspect that taxpayers will refuse to subsidize insurance rates in vulnerable places.

taxes/cost of living in the north are rising faster
than temperatures in the south

I moved south. It saved me $1,200 a year on energy bills even before solar is added to the roof. It costs less to cool a house in the desert summer than it does to heat an Ohio one in winter.

"I moved south. It saved me $1,200 a year on energy bills even before solar is added to the roof."

My parents moved from CT to NC. In CT, oil for hot water and some heat, and electric resistance heat for the rest. The oil was all over the place, but call it $3 a gallon...or $21 per million Btu. And electricity in CT is maybe 20 cents a kWh. In NC, it's natural gas at maybe $10 per million Btu, and electricity at approximately 10 cents a kWh. Can definitely save a huge chunk of change that way.

“As temperatures rise, people will migrate north... I’m amazed by the continued migration south.” Cognitive dissonance?

Serfdom. This is a serious proposal to create a class of workers permanently bound to the land. AKA : serfs. And how will you keep them on the land? Apartheid style internal passports?

And what are you going to do when they migrate to big cities? Force them back at gunpoint? Deport them?

This is a cynical attempt to flood the country with low skilled, unfree immigrants under cover of nostalgia.

I understand the appeal to both the right and the left: they both get a new permanent underclass to exploit. The right wants cheap and docile labor that they will turn into profits while left seduces them via resentment and grievance, which they will turn into power.

But how can libertarians who favor the deliberate creation of government enforced unfreedom?

The right quite clearly doesn’t want that anymore. Why lie about this- you are attributing to the right an ideology that’s actually neo-liberal. The right wants nothing more than a pause if not an outright suspension of immigration.

The right and libertarians in particular are pro-oligarchy. This is why they supported selling equity stakes in the lives of the young a couple posts back. Old Entrenched Money must get the first slice of the spoils. Notice how little value creation there is. Nothing new is invented and no process is improved. Rather their share in the gains is mostly in the form of arbitrage, a true middleman's play.

Many visas already have conditions (marriage visas don’t let you divorce right away, some employment-based visas don’t let you just quit your job). A place-based visa could just require immigrants to settle somewhere initially without forcing them to stay there forever; once they have a job and some local friends the vast majority will stay (just like the vast majority of Americans stay put).

Giving someone the option to do X subject to conditions always creates more freedom than not letting them do X at all.

Why are we pretending this is a hypothetical. Refuge resettlement already does this. They don’t stay which as a heartlander delights my heart.

The federal refugee resettlement basically operates as a heartland visa, with or without the receiving state's approval.

Main counter is that no one wants it. People don't want them to come and they don't want to go.

The other counter is that they'd just go to heartland cities, not to communities that actually are declining. If they came at all.

Plus regulatory burden, of course (unless you don't actually plan to enforce this!).

Heartland cities could use some growth. The power law is pretty severe in the US. The size of metro areas fall off fast.

If you fancy, however that's a departure from the argued premise that "heartland visas" could shuttle age demographic rebalancing into dying or fraying counties.

Perhaps targetting very specific counties could be achieved, by very, very specific visas.... but it seems like that money would be better spent enforcing against illegal immigration and on extreme vetting of legal migrants, as well as being a civil liberties nightmare, and big question marks about if we trust the state to effectively ration people hither and thither (particularly the objections from a "business and free market needs" argument that some have to the government regulating migration at *all* would become far louder).

Will Wilkinson and Noah Smith have both written about the need and potential for growth in 2nd or 3rd tier cities. They may not be small towns, but small towns don't have the universities and network effects needed for growth and good jobs in a modern economy.

So yeah, I am arguing for immigration to Kansas City and Iowa City.

Kansas City is fine. Have you ever been to Iowa City? It is a very small town with almost literally no jobs except with the university. What are the immigrants going to do? The main street already has enough falafel and taco stands.

Exactly this - I avoided commenting in a similar way as it's a pretty drifty topic away from Cowen's OP premise (helping dying counties, not growing small but healthy cities), but if you're taking the step of increasing migration, it seems like it's more efficient to let the market decide where they are best employed, rather than try and centrally plan this (as per this proposal), and be confounded by the central planners notions of where migrants are needed based on something or other that they think they recall from reading some pundit or other.

It smells of a politically oriented proposal to try and "sell" migration to the heartland and even out the "Demostacked" ethnic vote base (which tends to stack in certain urban areas, with reduced weight in elections because of this).

Unless you're committed to that for some reason, if you're having higher migration, why bother dicking around with people's lives to send them to places which are neither the best financial opportunity, nor use of their talents? If you're gonna have higher migration anyway (advisedly or not), may as well have a form that at least makes best use of market principles rather than these weird and pointless bureaucratic distortions.

One thing US cities have always been good at is assimilating immigrants. It's almost like they were built for this. In Chicago, you still see Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese, and Polish immigrant communities, because these are the countries that have continued to feed their immigrant pipeline. There is definitely room for more. Chicago population 1 million lower than peak 60 years ago.

Assimilation means out-marriage. If there are still distinct communities after generations, they're not assimilating, and we're not really structured for multi-national governance.

The time has come for a new immigration commission to develop a new set of reforms to our legal immigration system in order to achieve the following goals. To keep immigration levels measured by population share within historical norms, to select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society and their ability to be financially self-sufficient.
- President Donald Trump

"These aren't people. These are animals." - President Donald Trump

And that ladies and gentlemen is how your polite, armchair, bell curves come home to roost.

Ah yes, the noble MS-13 unauthorized immigrants, paragons of decency of virtue.

This is a fresh quote, yesterday, about asylum seekers.

Thank you for bringing this fresh example of Trump hyperbole to our attention. Yes, it is a horrible thing to say, but, for accuracies sake, he qualified it with "some" and I don't think it is beyond the pale for a reasonable person to believe that indeed, some of the people being deported have heinous crimes in their past.

I have accumulated educational degrees so I know that only white male US citizens commit violent crimes.

Obama may have spoken of "bitter clingers" and Hillary of a "basket of deplorables" but I recognize and swear to uphold the eternal verity that it is Donald Trump's hyperbole that has broken America and addressing his hate crime against humanity is the first and foremost policy concern on any topic (so please don't send Antifa after me), especially when we have the splendid open borders examples of Japan, China, and Singapore to guide us.

Interesting, where you went with that.

The anony-mouse, aka 'the mouse', has his delusions and he's sticking to them, or they are sticking to him, or in MR insider talk, his delusions are 'sticky'.

The mouse is an archetype of SF Bay area leftism - a sort of commitment to cultural suicide driven by guilt and self-loathing.

It is to be pitied.

What a more astute reader (or self-aware writer) might pick up on, is that any criticism of Trump is regarded as "left wing." Or even worse, a criticism of Trump (acknowledged as "a horrible thing to say") is seen as an attack on "white male US citizens."

It's really too bad that tribalism gets in the way like that.

Because Trump is a lousy president, likely suffering at least mild dementia, and we should deal with that rationally. And not just lash out at "the other side" in some tit-for-tat nonsense.

We are dealing with failed Spanish colonialism. Victims will end up in California, we have that sort of colonial government. They are happier in LA, let them go to LA. They expect a colonial state, it is all they know.

You nailed it! Compare the progeny of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism with the Anglosphere.


A Bangladeshi Uber driver was telling me about the great opportunities Bangladeshi immigrants have found in Buffalo NY and Detroit and the money they have made by buying up decrepit housing for next to nothing, fixing it up and then selling it for a nice profit. Said that they even have stores that cater to these people's tastes in these cities. Maybe Tyler should take a trip to say Buffalo to check out the story rather than the more exotic locales he seems to prefer.

You mean they figured it out on their own without the patronizing intervention of a government employee or NGO sjw?

I'm shocked SHOCKED!

Bangladeshis in America see more opportunities than rural whites who have nothing better to do than complain to the Federal government about how economically oppressed they are.

Another "dissolve the people and import another" post.

This is how you get the next Trump.

What's wrong with the one we already have?!?

#MAGA2020 baby! No collusion, it's a done deal. Probably win 400 electoral votes unless the illegals vote 3 million times like last time. Not happening this time!

Doesn't matter who becomes president. You can't help people who can't help themselves. Trade wars, walls, and other foolishness doesn't change this one basic fact.

2 problems I see.
A. not sure where the birth rate is declining in the US; definitely not in small town, rural America. Teen aged girls around here are having kids faster than the doctors can keep up. Don't know more than a few dozen from them working in fast foods, but half are aged 25 or less and have 3-5 kids already.
B. To heck with skilled labor getting visas to the heartland. I spent more than a year trying to find a laborer to replace the simple shutters on the front of my home. I spoke with nearly a hundred other people over the course of that year and 92% were dealing with the same problem; could not find general semi-skilled laborers. Please "tear down that wall" and let in some people who want to work.

Yeah man, sucks that you can't get cheap good labor fast. The traditional solution is to remove one of the three legs: cheap, good, fast. Which two do you want?

The American solution has been for over two centuries to open the doors to immigration. We scoff at "traditional" solutions that make you believe you must compromise somewhere. That's old world thinking. With American exceptionalism, we can have it all.

My heart says you're right, but my wallet says I just paid $185 an hour for a plumber. I think I've already compromised.

Could be Larry, or it could be like my state which requires a licensed plumber to do anything, but any average Joe (or Jane) can do the electricity. This skewing based upon ridiculous regulations is often the culprit for higher prices.

I said the same thing when I was working at Burger King when I was 18. Do you want the work good or fast? My mother said both. I was taught to be the best I could be at a job and do it as fast as I could. Something few people are being taught now. (Hmm, could be part of the reason productivity is down) If I didn't like the price I was being paid, I could quit and find another one. Which I did more than once.

Let's put all the visa applicants in one state and not count them for the census.

Akron is a pretty nice place. Much nicer than the outer boroughs of NYC. Interesting downtown infrastructure, beautiful countryside, excellent housing, and freaking Goodyear blimps drag-racing 50 feet overhead in the summer.

Akron really needs to get its crime rate down. Hard to enjoy the blimps when the locals get stabby. Also NYC has better paying jobs and more vibrant culture.

Akron is fairly nice with an interesting social geography. The nice parts are on the west side, where the prevailing westerly winds didn't blow the pollution from the tire factories in your face. The executives and higher-paid workers lived there. The cultural glories of Cleveland (not sarcastic) are only 40 minutes away.

"U.S. population growth has fallen to 80-year lows. The country now adds approximately 900,000 fewer people each year than it did in the early 2000s."

It gets harder and harder to fit in more people, because the country's so full. ;-)

The problem is that in most of these counties (and I live in one), the young people who are open to new faces and cultures are moving away to the cities, leaving an older more conservative population who want to complain about how the towns and villages are shrinking (businesses and schools closing, etc) but also don't want brown people moving in. For too many "Make America Great Again" means "bring back white people to rural America". Could we go back to the pre-1965 immigration laws that some perceive as racist?

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