Boston — Texas, Arizona, Colorado. It comes as no news that these are growth states and will continue to be for years to come. But, says a new report by a prestigious Harvard University-Massachusetts Instutute of Technology (MIT) study group, so are Vermont, Iowa, and Kansas.
Vermont, Iowa, and Kansas?
These states, and several others in the so-called frost belt, are enjoying a resurgence that defies the conventional wisdom that all cold-weather states are losing population uniformly, according to the study. Likewise, it finds that not all Sunbelt states are growing alike. Indeed, such glamour states as California and Florida are not matching the growth rates of some of their less obvious neighbors.
The study, ''Regional Diversity: Growth in the United States, 1960-1990,'' maintains that it is simplistic to chart population and economic trends by dividing the country only into Sunbelt and frost belt regions. Rather, it finds, there are subgroups within each of these broad regions - all of which do not perform alike.
Based on their findings taken from 1980 US Census data, authors Gregory Jackson and George Masnick of the Joint Center for Urban Studies, say there are actually four categories of states: fast-growth, decelerating, resurgent, and no-growth.
''All of the Sunbelt regions will continue their growth,'' Dr. Jackson said at news conference called to summarize the findings of the study. ''But it is equally clear to us that three of these regions - East South Central, West South Central, and Mountain - will continue very fast growth.'' The study projects that growth to take place at a 26 percent rate over the next 10 years. The other Sunbelt regions, South Atlantic and Pacific, he said, will grow less fast - probably at a 10 percent rate.
As for the frost belt, Jackson said, a resurgent New England (especially its three northernmost states) and the West North Central region also will grow at a rate (10 percent) that distinguishes them from the Mid-Atlantic and East North Central regions, which actually will experience negative growth (minus 3.8 percent) between now and 1990.
The Jackson-Masnick study measures five ''forces'' in charting the differences among regions:
* Net migration.
* Fertility levels (which are dramatically different across the regions and appear to be diverging even more widely).
* Relative wages (because economic analysts argue that it makes more sense for industries to migrate where wages are low).
* The number of available workers actually working.
* The location of the most efficient plants (because in periods of slow growth it's important for employers to maximize efficiency, whereas in a fast-growth period ''a company wants to throw everything it can at demand'').
''New England is a low-wage region,'' Jackson said. ''West North Central is a low-wage region. We are not projecting staggering growth rates for these regions. What we basically project is that they hold their own.''
But he added, both regions are well-positioned to meet the increasing demand for rural living, especially upper Midwestern states west of the Mississippi River.
New England, moreover, ''has been very adaptable'' to the loss of key industries and high energy prices and ''has paid its dues,'' Jackson said.
What keeps California from matching the fast growth of, say, Texas are such factors as high wages and housing prices, concern over the availability of water , relatively strict limits on development, and its sensitivity to national economic trends, the researcher said.
''The same sorts of limits are present in the other regions,'' he said. ''But for the moment they are nowhere near as pervasively felt. Housing prices in Houston are getting as astronomical as housing prices in San Diego are. But when you go to College Station in Texas, that's not true anymore. A comparable distance in California does not get you away from high housing prices.''
As for Florida, Jackson said, one of the chief reasons for its reduced growth rate is that while retirees from frost belt states still migrate there, they no longer make it their exclusive destination.