Migration patterns put a blue Texas on hold

(TEXAS TRIBUNE) -- One of the most intractable questions in Texas politics in recent years is why the state hasn't moved blue despite drastic demographic changes. A new analysis from The New York Times sheds new light on why this is so.

The answer, in a nutshell, is that migration patterns are different in Texas than in other Southern states, such as Virginia, North Carolina or Florida, where a political shift in favor of Democrats is more pronounced. In those states, migration from the West Coast or the Northeast has eclipsed the number of people moving in from other Southern states. In Florida, for instance, the Times found that 26 percent of the population had moved from the West Coast or Northeast. Only 12 percent were from other Southern states.

In Texas, however, 8 percent of the population had moved from the West Coast or Northeast. That's less than the 10 percent who moved to Texas from another Southern state. As Nate Cohn writes:

There are certainly northeastern and West Coast expats in Texas: 1.6 million of them, in fact, including more than 600,000 from California. But although those numbers may seem impressive, they’re relatively low compared to the state’s population. The pace of migration is also low in comparison with the states along the Atlantic, which are proving to be more appealing destinations for coastal migrants. There are three times as many northeastern or Californian expats in Florida as there are in Texas; there are nearly as many in Virginia as there are in the far larger state of Texas.

So while domestic migration has driven demographic shifts in Virginia and Florida, immigration from abroad is the bigger factor in Texas. And as has often been noted, arrivals from other countries are less likely to be eligible to vote.

Cohn goes one step further in his analysis of Texas, noting that the relative lack of domestic migration from outside the South means that Texas' native-born population has a distinctly more Southern character than a fellow high-growth state like Florida.

The bottom line, according to Cohn is this: "Without additional gains among white voters, Democrats will be forced to wait a long time for the children of foreign-born residents to carry them to competitiveness in Texas, a state that Mr. Obama lost by 17 points in 2012, and where there isn’t a flood of Democratic-leaning voters from New York to bail them out."

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