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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

January 22, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Data show there’s nothing new about newcomers in Seattle

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Are you a newcomer or not? Depending on who you ask, the answer might surprise you.

The topic has been much discussed in Seattle and on the Eastside lately. And among the more popular aspects of the discussion has been how long do you have to live here before you can say you’re from here?

That question seems open for debate to me — but not to my Seattle Times colleague Ron Judd. A proud fifth-generation Washingtonian, Judd isn’t one to mince words: “You’ll never be one of us,” he writes about folks who didn’t have the good sense to be born on Washington soil.

The concept is a little strange to me (I’m from New Jersey, where you earn bragging rights for managing to leave the state — not for staying put). But I get that for people who grew up around here, newcomers are a touchy subject. Natives have been grumbling about the invading hordes since the 1980s. First it was the dreaded Californians, now it’s the Amazonians.

And it’s not just perception. The percentage of born-and-bred Washingtonians in the Seattle area has been shrinking over the last few decades. According to census figures, people living in King and Snohomish counties who were born in Washington declined from 48 percent in 1980 to 44 percent in 2013.

The numbers are even lower in the city of Seattle (38 percent), and lower still in Bellevue (34 percent).

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

So yes, native Washingtonians, it’s true: You’re outnumbered. But that’s nothing new. In fact, 1980 was your peak year. And even though you’ve lost a little ground since then, there are still more of you around these days than throughout most of local history.

In 1950, for example — long before anybody here was grumbling about California expats — just 40 percent of folks in the Seattle metro were born in-state. Aeropsace and shipyard jobs brought plenty of newcomers in the midcentury period. Back then, it was Minnesotans who were running rampant. People born in the Land of 10,000 Lakes made up 6 percent of our population, more than double the contribution from any other state (Californians only ranked seventh).

If you think we live in a boom town now, go back about 100 years, when the fishing and timber industries held sway. Between 1900 and 1910, the area nearly tripled in population, and native Washingtonians were few and far between — only one out of six Seattleites was born in-state. There were nearly as many folks born in Scandinavia as in Washington back then.

These days, the percentage of native son and daughters varies widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. Explore the data for yourself on our interactive map of King County census tracts. Use the magnifying glass to enter your address and the map will automatically zoom in to your census tract. Click on any tract to see the percentage of Washington natives who live there.

Comments | More in Demographics | Topics: Census

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