In the past on this page we have discussed where we are from and where we’ve lived. Baboons can be both wanderers and stay-at-homes. It can be a surprisingly tough mental exercise to walk back through your biography to list the places you’ve lived in the proper sequence, and for how long at each stop.
Likewise, each state of the union has a specific history of who happens to live there and from whence they came. Only demographers and other numbers geeks can find much enjoyment in looking over the columns of figures that tell those stories.
For the rest of us the info-graphics experts at the New York Times have developed 50 fascinating charts that display the data as strata – a cross section cut from each state’s census showing the last century’s changes in where residents were born.
Some of the curious things that appear:
- A thread of Pennsylvanians running through Alaska.
- A bubble of Arkansans showing up in Arizona.
- Profound changes in Georgia over the past 20 years.
- The North Dakota oil boom beginning.
- The Dust Bowl driving Okies to California.
- Western states receiving a California Exodus.
Based on your personal history, you can get a sense for how common (or uncommon) you are in your current environment when birthplace is the sole yardstick. Back in the 1970’s I was part of a sliver (3%) of Illinoisans born in the Northeast. Now in Minnesota, my kind are still a rarity at a mere 2%. Rare as hen’s teeth. Precious as gold.
Sometimes we have to go out of our way to feel special.
After looking at this I’m left with the impression that people accumulate in specific places based on a variety of economic forces that drive them there. Because certain individuals may be rooted in place while others are entirely footloose, there is a variable and distinct human geology that defines each state.
Or maybe it’s just the wind.
Where are you headed?