Behind the demographic shifts that are reshaping political power in the United States: NPR
NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Alexa Ura, reporter for the Texas Grandstandabout demographic shifts that are pushing Sunbelt states like Texas to grow in population and political power.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Here is an excerpt from new US Census figures released this week. The Northeast continues to stagnate or lose its population. And places like Texas, Colorado, and Florida — well, they’re growing, so much so that those states will add seats to Congress in the next session. We wanted to understand how people and political power evolve in this country. And to do that, we’re going to focus on just one state: Texas. It gets two new seats, the only state that will get more than one. Here to explain why, Alexa Ura. She is a demographics reporter at the Texas Tribune. Salvation. Welcome.
ALEXA URA: Hello. Thank you for.
KELLY: Looks like we’ve been hearing about Texas growing for a while now. What jumped out at you about these new 2020 Texas Census numbers?
URA: I think as someone who has watched this very closely over the last few years, it has indeed ended up increasing largely because of residents of color and a growing population there. Although our growth was not as significant as it was in the 2010 census, it was still quite gigantic. And the implications of this both politically and economically are quite enormous. And I say that knowing what it’s like to hear a Texan say that.
KELLY: Just to unravel a little bit what’s driving population growth, is it also people who decide, hey; I’m going to move; I’m not going to put up with New England weather or whatever in other parts of the country, and move to Sunbelt states like Texas?
UR: Yeah. I think if you look at the growth in a place like Texas over the last decade, people often think of Texas and think of some kind of immigration hotbed. But in reality, much of our growth has come from growing families, especially families of color. When you look at the share of Texans who are 18 and under, they’re going to lean towards Hispanics and Blacks. And of course, you know, we’re known as a state that attracts people from many other states. And that’s largely driven by the economic pools that exist in Texas.
KELLY: And explain what it is.
UR: Yeah. We have quite a diversified economy, don’t we? So in Houston we have the oil and gas industry. In Austin, we have a lot of tech industry. But it’s also, you know, the farm workers of the Rio Grande Valley. And when you combine all of those things, you end up with a state that is creating jobs and has jobs available.
KELLY: At the heart of it all is political clout. Population as reflected in census counts, of course, determines how many members of Congress the state has, how federal resources are allocated. What are the implications of a more politically powerful Texas?
URA: When you think about that growth in congressional districts, that obviously translates to two more votes in the Electoral College. And Texas is one of those red states where the margin has narrowed dramatically at the presidential level in recent election cycles. And so when you think of emerging battleground states, those are states that are diverse. And when you look at a state like Texas, that might end up being kind of a really interesting case study of how politics changes when you have Hispanic and black people becoming a bigger and bigger part of it. global electorate and change politics.
KELLY: Do you think the demographic trends in Texas give us any idea of where the rest of the country is heading?
URA: I don’t think what’s happening in Texas is unique to Texas, especially when you think of the biggest states in the country and those that are growing. They also have quite a large Hispanic population, when you think about Texas and what representation means and the people represented are from different backgrounds and different identities and what that means for who holds power in the state.
KELLY: Alexa Ura from the Texas Tribune, thank you very much.
URA: Glad to be here.
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