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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

October 2, 2012 at 1:00 PM

When can you call yourself a Seattleite?

The original Seattleite (photo credit: Steven Pavlov via Wikimedia Commons)

What’s your definition of a true Seattleite? When can you officially say that you’re from here? If you asked 10 people you’d probably get 10 different answers.

Are you only a legitimate Seattlite if you grew up inside the city limits? Or is it a matter of having lived here a certain number of years, or a certain percentage of your life? Or is it something more abstract, like an attitude or mentality? How do you earn your stripes?

Personally, I think of myself as a Seattleite. I moved to the city from California in 2002, when The Seattle Times hired me on as a news researcher. So I’ve been here 10 years, and Seattle feels like my home town now. I own a condo in Belltown, I have great friends here, and I feel integrated into the life of the city. When people stop me on the street for directions, I can usually help out. I can pronounce Puyallup without having to think about it first. I’m even pulling espresso shots at home these days. I would call myself a Seattleite without hesitation. But would someone who was born and raised in the city agree with me? Hard to say–I’d ask, but the problem is, I don’t meet a lot of folks who actually did grow up in Seattle.

And the data back me up on this. According to the just-released Census Bureau estimates for 2011, about 62 percent of Seattle residents were not born in Washington state. In other words, three out of every five people living in the city aren’t native Washingtonians, let alone native Seattleites.

To give this data some perspective, I compared America’s 50 largest cities on the percent of their population that was born out-of-state. As you can see on the chart below, Seattle is in the top ten, ranking seventh:

RANK

CITY

% BORN OUT-OF-STATE

1

Las Vegas, NV

74.6%

2

Miami, FL

71.7%

3

Colorado Springs, CO

68.0%

4

Mesa, AZ

64,2%

5

San Francisco, CA

62.3%

6

Washington, DC

61.8%

7

Seattle, WA

61.7%

8

Phoenix, AZ

59.5%

9

Virgina Beach, VA

59.2%

10

Portland, OR

58.5%

It’s not simply that so many of us were born in far-flung places. It’s also that a lot of us just arrived in town. The Census Bureau estimates that in 2011, 6 percent of the population of Seattle had been living in Washington state for less than a year. Again, I looked at how we compare to other big cities for this particular statistic. Among the nation’s 50 largest cities, Seattle ranks fourth in the percent of people who established residency in the city just a matter of months ago:

RANK

CITY

% NEWCOMERS

1

Washington, DC

9.1%

2

Colorado Spring, CO

8.9%

3

Boston, MA

6.6%

4

Seattle, WA

6.0%

5

Portland, OR

5.9%

Seattle is a vibrant city with a strong economy and good quality of life, so it’s really not surprising that a lot of people would want to move here. And move here they do; the Census shows that since 2000, close to 30,000 new households have been established in the city.

So the question is, when do people transplanted from other places–folks like me–become true Seattleites? I am not sure of the answer, but one thing the data make clear: there are a lot more of us transplants than there are native Seattleites.

How about you? Did you grow up in Seattle, or are you from someplace else? Are a lot of the people you know from somewhere else? When did you start thinking of yourself as a Seattleite–or do you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: Census, Seattle

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The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


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