Two Kinds of Migration are Producing the New American City

Today I want to draw your attention to a news article of significance. It is written by Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist and author of Who’s Your City?. Florida’s book is an excellent read, and this little article sums up some of his points in sterling fashion. The article is titled, Two Very Different Types of Migrations Are Driving Growth in U.S. CitiesIt is a quick read.

This is not a new article, but I found it recently and thought it was worth sharing. Simply put, two different kinds of migration are driving the development of American cities. Florida states,

America’s largest metro areas, which are currently gaining population at impressive rates, are driving much of the population growth across the nation. But that growth is the result of two very different migrations – one coming from the location choices of Americans themselves, the other shaped by where new immigrants from outside the United States are heading.

US cities are growing at outstanding rates right now; however, a closer look reveals that it is not simply people from rural areas moving into urban centers driving this urban swell. In fact, many of North America’s largest urban centers (New York, Los Angeles, and Miami) are actually losing Americans overall. Of course this forces us to ask, “How are they still growing?” The answer is international migration. While many Americans are leaving our largest cities (and I will tell you where they are going in just a bit), these cities still grow because of the record immigration happening. This, of course, significantly impacts the culture of those large cities. They are losing “majority culture” people and gaining people from hundreds of different cultures all over the world. These cities are developing ethnic enclaves and social networks for these cultural groups.

Now, back to all those Americans leaving our largest cities. Where are they going? Well, many of them are headed to Sunbelt cities. These cities have lower costs and higher job rates. Housing is more affordable and prospects are high. Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix are benefiting significantly from domestic migration. So are cities like Charlotte, Nashville, and Atlanta. Add to this the large number of immigrants calling these Sunbelt cities home, and you see why these medium-sized cities are some of the fastest growing in the country.

Of course, this matters for missions and church planting. Our largest metro areas are experiencing a net loss of Americans and an upsurge of immigrants. Church planting efforts in these cities will need to take note of this. Western church planting methods reach Westerners. Of course, these cities still have plenty of Westerners to go around, and these Westerners need churches that will share the gospel with them. The trick is not losing an emphasis on Western, traditional church planting methods. Instead, it is gaining a sensitivity for planting churches that reach very different cultures. These churches will need to speak different languages, conceive of worship differently, and do community in strikingly different ways than our normal North American plants.

For all those medium-sized cities that are receiving both domestic and international migration, church planting for both of these streams must be a high priority. In a place like Houston, that means a wide array of methods, from traditional church planting models to organic, contextualized congregations that reach people in their heart language and culture.

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