Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advertisements for Myself (and my Collaborator)

One advantage in living in a small city like Rochester, for those of us who experience a frisson of thrill on seeing our names in print, is that the local paper, the one that everyone reads, will actually sometimes print something you submitted on the op-ed page. So it happened today, when the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle printed a little essay-ette I composed with my friend and Encyclopedia colleague James Darlington, a remarkable historical gepgrapher. (And unlike some other great metropolitan newspapers that I might mention, when the D & C publishes your op-ed, they include a photograph! Take that Fareed Zakaria!) To be sure, in the Procrustean way of newspaper editors, a few limbs of the argument were hacked off to fit the available space, but all the vital functions were perserved, and the op ed does serve as a precis of our basic argument, which I hope will reach a wider audience than my usual historical effusions. With the exception of a correction of a typo and a grave solecism, what is below is what the bleery eyed readers of the D & C espied this morning. We submitted it under the title of the "New York Diaspora" but the less high-falutin' title they used is probably better. For some reason the line breaks from the original piece are not reproducing well here. Please forgive some unusual enjambments.

Peter Eisenstadt and James Darlington
Guest essayists

Exodus From the State is Nothing New

(November 27, 2007) — In recent years, it has been difficult to pick up the Democratic and Chronicle or other upstate newspapers without reading about the high numbers of New Yorkers leaving the state. From 1990 to 2004, the number of 25- to 34-year-old residents in the 52 counties north of Rockland and Putnam declined by more than 25 percent; from 2000 through 2006, about 1.2 million left the state. In survey after survey, young people in the upstate area say they are uncertain about their future in the state, most do not expect to spend their lives in the state.

The current crisis is severe. In 2000, of the 19.6 million persons born in New York state, 12.4 million were living in their native state; 7.2 million were living elsewhere in America, or 36 percent, the highest absolute and relative numbers for any state. In some ways this is just the latest phase of a long and enduring trend.

The New York diaspora began early in the state's history. The first to leave were the state's Native Americans. Less than a fifth of the roughly 60,000 enrolled members of the six Iroquois nations now live in state. The end of the American Revolution also saw the forced migration of loyalists from New York state, 30,000 from New York City alone, many of whom went
to Canada.

The mid-19th century saw a great stream of both migrants and immigrants to New York state, and an almost as sizable stream leaving the state, moving mainly to the Midwest and later, the Pacific Coast. In the middle decades of the 19th century, no state produced as many westward migrants. In 1860, of the 3.4 million native-born New Yorkers, 25 percent resided outside the state.

The scope of the migration from New York state decreased after the end of the 19th century, not to rise until after 1950, when migration, often following the movement of business, went primarily to the South and West. California, a magnet for New Yorkers since the Gold Rush, was one destination, where New Yorkers, among other things, largely created Hollywood as the international center of the entertainment industry.

But the main thrust of the migration over the last half century has been to the South and the Sunbelt. This has been centered on Florida, which in 2000 was home to 1.5 million New Yorkers, by far the most natives of one state living in another.

During the 1970s, New York state's population declined by 650,000, by far the most any state has ever lost over a 10-year census period. While the demographic and economic catastrophe of the 1970s was statewide, for a variety of reasons, New York City recovered in the 1980s and thereafter; for the most part, upstate New York has not.

New Yorkers who have been forced to leave in the most recent and in many ways the most substantial phase of the New York diaspora have often done so with sorrow, and have carried with them many habits, cultures and pastimes acquired from their years in New York state, from a love of the Buffalo Bills to more liberal voting patterns, which helped make the 2000 presidential election in Florida a dead heat.

Why have so many people, over so many centuries, left New York state?

No single reason.

Some of the early streams of migrants, such as the Indians and loyalists, largely left under force and duress. Since the early 19th century, the primary motivations for the New York diaspora have been economic: a lack of opportunity at home, or the likelihood of better opportunities elsewhere. This remains so today.

The problems that created the current New York diaspora have no easy solutions, but studying them will help us to understand that we are not the first generation of New Yorkers to face these choices

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