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TAUBMAN CENTER POLICY BRIEFS P B 2 0 0 7 5 M a y 2 0 0 7 The Rise of the Sunbelt By Edward L Glaeser Harvard University and Kristina Tobio Kennedy School of Government Introduction In the 1930s the eleven Southern states of the old Confederacy seemed trapped in the cycle of poverty and decline that had characterized the region since the Civil War Since World War II however the region has become one of the great success stories in America As shown in Figure 1 the South s share of the national population has increased from 24 percent to 30 percent since 1950 From 1950 to 2000 average income in the South increased from 76 percent of the national average to 94 percent of the national average while housing prices rose from 83 percent to 91 percent of the national average The tremendous growth of the South re ects a nationwide correlation between warmth and growth throughout the postwar period Figure 2 shows the correlation between January temperatures and population growth from 1950 to 2000 Correlations between January temperatures and income growth as well as January temperatures and housing price growth show a similar pattern While it is clear that the Sunbelt places with warm Januarys and Julys including but not limited to the South has experienced a boom since 1950 it is far from obvious what has been the driving force behind this growth The traditional explanations for the growth are increasing productivity in the South and increasing demand for Sunbelt amenities especially its pleasant weather A third less studied explanation is the Sunbelt s more exible housing supply Our empirical analysis assesses the relative contributions of rising productivity rising demand for Sunbelt amenities and an increasing Sunbelt housing supply to Southern and Sunbelt growth Our results suggest that rising demand for Sunbelt amenities has had little to do with the growth of the Sunbelt while rising productivity and surprisingly increased housing supply have both played important roles



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