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July 2019, Volume 25, Number 3

Regional America

The US has 3,142 countries, and 44 percent of US counties lost residents in the year ended June 30, 2018; some 298 counties had rising populations due to the net immigration of one million foreigners. Immigrants, including Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland US, accounted for more than half of the population growth in 14 states, including Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio. Since 2010, about 40 percent of immigrants are from Asia, followed by 20 percent from Mexico.

The 12 southern states stretching from the Virginias to Alabama and Mississippi (excluding Florida and Texas) had per capita incomes that were 66 percent of the US average in the 1940s, largely because these states' economies were based on agriculture. After WWII, many southern states attracted factories with low taxes and low wages, and by 2009 per capita incomes in southern states were 89 percent of the US average. Since then, per capita income growth has lagged, and in 2018 per capita incomes in southern states were 86 percent of the US average.

The south was dependent on agriculture far longer than the rest of the US. In 1880, over 90 percent of southern workers were employed in agriculture, compared with two-thirds outside the South.

The same factors that attracted manufacturers to the Southern states in the past are today seen an obstacle to economic development. A third of people in the South live in rural areas, compared with 20 percent across the US. Factories often made a rural area dependent on one employer, so that, when the factory closed, jobs were lost and house prices fell.

Most southern states continue to have a low-tax, low-wage policy that results in low spending on education. As ex-factory towns lose their skilled workers, and as young people who go away to college rarely return, employers are reluctant to invest. The exceptions to stagnation and decline are places such as Huntsville, Alabama, which received federal funding for missile and space research and will be the site of a $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda auto plant.

The US produced 43 billion pounds of chicken meat in 2018 worth $65 billion. Supermarkets and restaurants alleged in 2016 that Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms conspired to keep the price of chicken high. The Justice Department in June 2019 announced that it was checking whether the chicken processors violated antitrust laws.