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State with fewest natives is ... not Florida or Arizona

November 29, 2011 |  5:14 pm

Las vegas economy

What are the odds that your Vegas card dealer was born in Nevada?

Not very high.

Nevada has the smallest percentage of native-born residents in the nation, the Las Vegas Sun reported, with about 24%. Next was Florida, with 35%, and Arizona, with 38%, according to the report, based on U.S. Census Bureau data. All three states were the beneficiaries of the pre-recession stampede to sunny states.

Last decade, Nevada's population grew about 35%, to 2.7 million residents, with the vast majority living in the Las Vegas region. Transplants from other states accounted for more than half of Nevada's growth, the Sun said, whereas another 17% relocated from another country.

In fact, the concept of the Vegas native has become so exotic that a local alternative weekly, Vegas Seven, runs a column called "Ask a Native." Sample exchange:

Q: With no disrespect meant toward these professions, I don’t want my child to be a cocktail waitress or a go-go dancer or a valet attendant or a bartender. Should I move?

A: Yes, you should move. But only as a penalty for asking such a question.

Many of the newcomers were lured by cheap housing and jobs in construction and tourism, which promised a middle-class lifestyle even for people who lacked college degrees -- the so-called Vegas dream.  Then the housing bubble popped and the recession took hold. Nevada has led the nation in joblessness since summer 2010, when it dethroned Michigan.

With so much economic woe, should Nevada expect a population exodus?

Not yet, demographers told the Sun.

Right now, few regions are doing well economically, so the possibility of jumping to another job is limited. Also, many Nevada homeowners are “underwater,” meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth and can’t easily move.


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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas

Photo: Construction on the Echelon in Las Vegas shut down in 2008, with the company citing "economic conditions" and the credit freeze. With the economy so rotten in Nevada, will the new residents it gained in the last decade leave? Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times