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2010 Census and politics: Are economic forces redrawing congressional map?

It's no coincidence that 'red' states, with looser building codes and freer economies, are gaining people and political clout, say analysts. After 2010 Census, 'blue' states look to be the losers.

By Staff writer / December 20, 2010

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (r.) shakes hands with San Antonio resident Maria Garcia, in this Mar. 29 photo. After 2010 Census, Texas could gain four new congressional districts due to its rapid population growth over the past decade.



New population data from the Census Bureau this week will reshuffle political clout among the states, and the power shift may be amplified by economic forces as well as demographic ones. Simply put, some states have been gaining people because they offer cheaper housing or more abundant jobs.

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Consider that the state poised to gain the most new congressional seats is Texas, which happens to be home to strong job growth, low tax rates, and relatively light regulation of business.

Texas could gain four new congressional districts due to its rapid population growth over the past decade.

Of course, one big driver of population growth in places like Texas is birth rates and immigration. But another factor behind this week's census data is that, in effect, Americans are voting with their feet about where they want to live.

Economic opportunities are one major factor behind those choices, researchers say.

Over the decade from 2000 to 2009, according to Census Bureau data estimates released earlier this year, Texas has added nearly 850,000 people who have moved there from other parts of the country.

California, by contrast, remains the most populous state but hasn't had incoming traffic from other states. Instead, the state has seen 1.5 million more people move out than in during that decade. That population loss is more than offset by other gains (such as from immigration), but the bottom line is that the Golden State may notch no change in congressional seats.

Critics of California say a key reason is that its economic climate is much poorer than that of Texas.

Joel Kotkin, a reserarcher at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., wrote a critique of the state's policies a few months ago in the City Journal, under the headline: "The Golden State's war on itself."

One issue is tax rates, he argues. But taxes are just part of a broader array of economic policies – from zoning to the treatment of labor unions – that may affect where jobs are created and where people move.

Whatever the reasons, the winners of the congressional-seat sweepstakes appear likely to be so-called red states (which favor Republican candidates in national elections) or purple ones (swing states). States likely to lose congressional seats are overwhelmingly in the blue (Democratic-voting) camp, concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.


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