Originally Posted by Steely Dan
i don't buy this "first movers" and "second movers" theory. all of these things were happening simultaneously in the sunbelt. one of the absolute biggest economic growth drivers in the sunbelt over the past 60 years has been the construction industry, and that industry has been sustained in large part by people like my relatives who moved south for the lone reason to get away from midwest winters.
deny weather all you like, but it is a significant factor in all of this that needs mentioning. it is by no means the only factor, but the fact that canada has no warm winterless sunbelt for people to flee to has helped its side of the rust belt remain more vibrant.
It's a significant factor, of course. But it's not why it initially happened. If desire for better weather was the foremost factor, the US south and west would not have remained largely agricultural and undeveloped until post WWII times... people would have up and moved there en masse and the "sunbelt" would have existed long before the term was coined, if nicer weather by itself caused its population influx and economic activity.
The construction industry followed after
the highways, military installations, military and aerospace industry transfer to the south and west, and yes, widespread and cheap air conditioning. Cities in the south and west in this era initially grew because of the industrial change in America... and then the nicer weather brought more and more people. Yes, people like your relatives seeking better weather sustained
that construction industry in the sunbelt, but they in their search for better weather did not cause it. I'm not suggesting that weather was not a factor in helping to drive the exodus from northern cities, but it was not the cause of that exodus to begin with. More recently, it most certainly is a major factor... and the sole factor for some people... generally people who had/have the means to just up and leave because they desire warmer winters. More often though, people wanted nicer weather, but there was also opportunity in the sunbelt that didn't exist to the same extent anymore in the rustbelt.