South Florida population booms, up 1.7% in year
By Rachel Tannenbaum
Southeast Florida is undergoing a new mini-boom in population growth following a decade of concentration, the US Census Bureau reports, and a local professor says a major contributor is retiring baby boomers.
Between 2010 and 2011, 92,045 new residents moved to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach area and helped to generate a 1.7% population increase, according to data complied by the Census Bureau in what is the first major revision to the 2010 Census.
Coupled with 65,977 births and 45,537 deaths producing a natural increase of 20,440 people in the area, South Florida had population gains for the first time after several years of flat or negative numbers, propelling the region to the sixth largest increase in the nation.
The South Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area's population increased 1.7%, said Robert D. Cruz, Miami-Dade's chief economist, showing a stronger increase than that of Florida as a whole, 1.2%.
With 31,317 births and 18,117 deaths in the county, Miami-Dade saw a natural increase of 13,200 persons in the brief period. But, Dr. Cruz said, that increase in population wasn't uniform across the three counties comprising the metropolitan area.
Miami-Dade not only had the largest gain in population, almost 52,000, it also grew at the fastest rate, 2.1%. Broward County saw a population gain of 28,050 and Palm Beach County saw a population gain of 12,263.
Although South Florida, especially Miami, has large tourism and finance service industries, said Maria Aysa-Lastra, assistant professor of sociology at Florida International University, the real driving force is the housing market for baby boomers.
"Often there is a perception that Miami-Dade's growth comes primarily from foreign immigrants, but the latest census data shows that is not the reality," Dr. Cruz said. "Miami-Dade attracted 18,400 more residents from the rest of the US than it lost."
"Baby boomers are recovering or reconstructing their future paths, and Florida is a very attractive market to them," Ms. Aysa-Lastra said. "Prices are at the bottom and people are capitalizing on that."
Florida was one of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis, Ms. Aysa-Lastra said, and it still isn't out of the woods. But, she said, people are capitalizing on the poor housing market, especially the large number of retiring baby boomers.
"From 2010 to 2020, we will see the largest cohort in America retiring, not just any cohort but the baby boomers in the retiring age," Ms. Aysa-Lastra said. "To me, that is the driving force for the growth in population."
With a large number of baby boomers packing their bags for Florida, Ms. Aysa-Lastra said, they are going to drive consumption of amenities geared to the age group, such as health care and services.
They are also going to counties like Palm Beach and Broward as opposed to Miami-Dade because of cheaper housing and a lower unemployment. Dr. Cruz said almost 80% of South Florida's population growth was due to net migration, with more persons moving to South Florida than were moving out of the metropolitan area.
Dr. Cruz said the recently released population estimates for Miami-Dade are consistent with other local economic indicators showing economic recovery in 2011, and that Broward's population growth of 1.6% is also encouraging.
Tampa/St. Petersburg saw the second largest influx of new residents in Florida over the period, with 36,573 pouring into the metropolitan area over the year.
Ms. Aysa-Lastra said the retiring baby boomers usually move south because of warmer weather. She said they are also attracted to communities populated by the alumni of their college, although she said those numbers aren't usually high. "That will be more scattered around the country."
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