By Hope Yen, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Call it the migration bust: Many of the fast-growing U.S. areas during the housing boom are now yielding some of the biggest income drops in the economic downturn.
That could have broad impact on the political map in the coming weeks. Voters discontent over the economy and related issues such as immigration head to the polls on Nov. 2 to decide whether to keep Democrats in Congress.
Whites and blacks have taken big hits since 2007 in once-torrid Sunbelt regions offering warm climates and open spaces, including Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, according to 2009 census data. Hispanics suffered paycheck losses in many "new immigrant" destinations in the interior U.S., which previously offered construction jobs and affordable housing, such as Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina.
The few bright spots: Washington, D.C., San Jose, Calif., San Francisco and Boston. Their household incomes remained among the highest in the nation last year partly due to steady demand for government and high-tech work.
"As a whole, the income changes represent a sharp U-turn from the mid-decade gains," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who reviewed the household income data. "The last two years have left those who couldn't move stuck in place with lower incomes."
In December, the Census Bureau will release 2010 population counts, which will trigger a politically contentious process of divvying up House seats. In all, Southern and Western states are expected to take seats away the Midwest and Northeast. But last-minute shifts could affect a handful of states hanging in the balance, including California, which is hoping to avoid losing its first seat ever, and Arizona, which may now gain just one seat rather than two based partly on slowing Hispanic population growth.
The census data show that Hispanics, the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority group, are helping drive growth in several Southern states.