Richard S. Oliver reports:
Without immigrants, the Cincinnati region’s population would barely be growing, new Census Bureau estimates released today show. Immigrants also may have stopped Hamilton County’s population decline and helped to bolster population gains in Butler, Boone and Warren counties, according to the estimates.
The new estimates have the 15-county region growing at a 0.7 percent rate from the 2010 Census to July 2012. That helped the Cincinnati region tie for 252nd place in population growth among 381 metro areas nationwide. Without immigrants, the growth rate would have been 0.3 percent and the region would have tied for 282nd in growth.
The region’s increased population from an international influx, combined with births exceeding deaths, took the edge off more than 13,000 people who left here for other locations in the United States. The region now has an estimated 2,128,663 residents.
Only 19 of 88 counties in Ohio (including Butler, Clermont and Warren) have seen a population increase since the 2010 Census, according to the new estimates. In Kentucky, only 47 of 120 counties saw a population increase. Thirty-five of Indiana’s 92 counties saw populations rise; the 57 that didn’t include the three in Southeast Indiana.
“If you look around the country at the markets that have been and still are growing rapidly, almost all of them are magnets for international immigration,” says Janet Harrah, senior director of the Center for Economic Analysis and Development at Northern Kentucky University.
Warren County was the fourth-fastest growing county in Ohio, according to the new estimates. But half of its growth came from births exceeding deaths, not people moving into the suburban county, the estimates show. Of the newcomers to the county, roughly one in 3 three came from a foreign country. Warren did not make the list of the nation’s 100 fastest-growing counties; only Hamilton County, Ind., a suburban county north of Indianapolis, ended up on the top 100 from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Hamilton County, Ohio, saw nearly 11,000 people leave for elsewhere in the U.S. But with births exceeding deaths in Hamilton County by about 7,200 and more than 3,400 foreign immigrants, the combination essentially left the county’s population flat at about 802,000.
“Domestic migration has been shifting population from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West for decades,” says Gary Wright, demographer and founder of Wright Futures in Cincinnati. “Hamilton County is still receiving the most (foreign) immigrants in our area. If immigration drops below current levels, the population of Hamilton County and the region is likely to decrease.”
The new statewide Ohio estimates show that 56 percent of the foreign immigrants to the state between 2010 and 2012 live in just three counties – Hamilton, Cuyahoga and Franklin.
Foreign immigrants also made a difference in Butler County, which saw a population increase even though more people left the county for elsewhere in the U.S. than moved into it. Butler’s population grew 0.7 percent, the estimates show.
In Kentucky, Boone County was the second-fastest growing county in the state, bolstered by a birth rate that exceeded deaths by more than 2,000. Roughly 53 percent of the county’s growth came from people moving into it, with one of roughly three newcomers coming from a foreign country.
What brings so many immigrants to the area, says Harrah, are the same factors that attract most people to any marketplace: jobs and education.
Local employers, such as Procter & Gamble, Macy’s and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Medical Center, call to high-end specialists and encourage immigrants to come and fill the positions. “There’s a nationwide shortage of doctors in the United States, for example,” says Harrah, “and we rely on the immigration of foreign professionals to fill the gap.”
Boone County in Kentucky also beckons foreign professionals to the area, according to Harrah, with the airport complex.
The University of Cincinnati is also responsible for the flow of immigration into the area, says Harrah. The higher tuition costs for international students at UC help offset the education costs for domestic students.
Out-migration from urban counties, like Hamilton, can be attributed primarily to “lifestyle moves,” says Harrah, which account for local residents moving from one county to another still in the area. Movement within the metropolitan area from county to county probably contributed to the area’s overall net migration estimates, although the data doesn’t directly measure them. These moves, generally, are not concerned with job or education opportunities, but with changes in transportation and tastes in housing and lifestyle.
“The movement of people back into center cities may stabilize the population there,” says Wright. “But I do not expect to see a reversal of the trend of more growth in the suburbs and beyond for the foreseeable future.”
According to Wright and U.S. population projections provided by the Pew Research Center, immigrants and their American-born children account for most of the population growth in the U.S. today. Immigrants will likely account for more than 80 percent of U.S. population growth through 2050.