The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

03 March 2005

Last One Out of Seattle, Please Turn Off the Lights

Why are so many people leaving blue states these days? Housing costs, job losses and big government getting to be too much?

Funny how this Seattle Times piece reads so much like several that ran in the Boston Globe a few months ago: the issues are the same. Massachusetts was the only state to lose population in the last census data release.

King County, Washington, home of Seattle and the suburbs it holds hostage, also is losing residents for the reasons listed above. Housing costs skyrocket as local government tries to control growth, jobs migrate to more competitive locations and traffic chokes local roads due to enviro-NIMBYism.

All of that adds up to a place families flee.

(Seattle Times)

His and other departures from King County during those first three years of the decade resulted in a net domestic population loss of nearly 50,000, census estimates show. In other words, 50,000 more people left King County than arrived here from another county or state between April 2000 and July 2003.

Even an influx of 42,000 newcomers from overseas wasn't enough to overcome an overall migration loss for the county during that time.

The folks who follow such trends cite a host of factors. Skyrocketing housing prices in the most desirable areas have forced families to outlying counties where real estate is far cheaper, some say. And they blame the dot-com bust and Boeing job cuts that put thousands out of work and sent many of them, like Barton, to jobs elsewhere.

Still, the magnitude of a three-year domestic population loss baffled county officials who believed many of those laid off earlier had stuck around. And they say there's no evidence of abandonment in this county where the housing market remains fire-hot.

During the comparable three-year period a decade ago, the county had a net internal gain of almost 10,000 people. And in the decade of the 1990s, it had a net population loss to other parts of the state and the U.S. of fewer than 9,500.


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