By: John Besl
One of the truisms of demography is that there are only three components of population change: birth, death, and migration. We have little choice in the timing of our birth or death, but as adults we typically have a great deal of control in migration decisions, that is, the choice to move from one residence to another. I first became interested in the field of population studies back in the 1980s upon reading stories in the popular press about individuals and families moving from the “Rust Belt” to the “Sun Belt” in the face of plant closings. Northern cities like Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio became symbols of the economic dislocation of that era, losing huge shares of their resident populations. Meanwhile, southern cities like Houston and Atlanta attracted northern migrants and grew rapidly.