Monday, November 5, 2018

Dodge City and Demographic Shifts

Recently, Dodge City, Kansas was in the news because they are moving the one remaining polling place to a location outside of the city.  This is seen as an attempt to suppress the Hispanic vote.

I took a few minutes to look up the demographics of Dodge City, and I was surprised by what I saw.  Dodge City is about 65% non-white.  Manhattan and Lawrence, the locations of Kansas State and Kansas University, are 21% and 23% non-white.

Here is a breakdown of Dodge City, by age:

Over a 20 year+ span (from 75 year olds to 54 year olds), the proportion of the age group that is white declined from 94% to 38%.  They were largely replaced by Hispanics.  That is a massive generational shift.  Post-war Dodge City residents saw their children pick up and leave, en masse.  They were replaced by Hispanic families, so the stress of this gets played out to a large extent through racial politics.  But, if they hadn't been replaced, and the city had just died, the sea change would have been no less jarring.

As unfortunate as some of the political reactions to these changes are, this sort of thing doesn't happen without some social upheaval.  The transition to an information-based economy is no less epochal than the shift from agriculture to manufacturing was.

The Luddites saw that machines were replacing skilled workers.  The engine of progress was destroying their way of life, and they lashed out at it.  Maybe there is a parallel here to the current political realignment that is happening with regard to intellectuals and the Republican base.  The information age is driven by human capital rather than physical capital.  Today's Luddites are also raging against the engine of progress that is destroying their way of life.  Today, that is education and specialized skills.  Education might have been a boon for their children, but when those kids left Dodge City and didn't return, what did the rise of human capital do for Dodge City?



  1. Interesting post.

    There may be a missing element here. If Hispanics are perceived as "brought in" by agricultural or manufacturing interests to replace more expensive native or white workers, that might explain reservations about the glories of immigration.

    In other words, the younger whites did not leave Dodge City as much as they were pushed out.

    Having never set foot in Dodge City, I do not know which version of events is more close to the truth or if there is just a blend of truths.

    Another interesting tidbit: São Paulo Brazil has a higher fraction of European Americans as residents then does Los Angeles.

    1. There are a lot of regional plains cities where Hispanic families didn't move in, and they are ghost towns. I know the locals think the Hispanics drove wages down and forced their kids out, but I'm pretty confident that the causation is in the other direction.