Most S.C. transplants from nearby states

Lured by South Carolina's beaches, lush green mountains and mostly snow-free climate, Ohioans and other Northerners are moving here by the van load, right?

Not quite.

New population data show that most people who moved to South Carolina between 1990 and 2008 were from three Southern states - North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

North Carolina supplied by far the most newcomers during this period, with 393,935.

And Ohio? A mere 84,898 came from the Buckeye State.

Since 1990, more than 2.3 million people have moved to South Carolina, while 1.9 million have moved away, according to the state Office of Research and Statistics.

"We are a pretty mobile group of people," said Jerry Mitchell, a geography professor at the University of South Carolina. But, he added, "most people don't move far."

After North Carolina, Georgia sent the second highest number of transplants to South Carolina, with 241,053, followed by Florida, with 217,644.

Mitchell said the high numbers from Florida might reflect the "halfback" phenomenon - people from the North who moved to Florida and then decided to move "halfway back."

In some respects, the large number of people moving from one Southern state to another challenges the notion the South is being overrun by snowbirds.

Consider the tongue-in-cheek operators of the Web site Gobacktoohio.com, which boldly states: "Not since the years after the Second War of Independence (the War of Northern Aggression) have so many Yankees brought their way of life and horrible driving so far south."

On the other hand, a significant number of Northerners have made their homes here. Since 1990, for instance, 218,105 people from New York and New Jersey have moved to South Carolina, while only 86,109 South Carolinians moved to those states.

South Carolina historian Walter Edgar said people who live in coastal areas probably have different perceptions about who's moving here.

"The Lowcountry is probably seeing more folks from up north and from Florida than Cherokee and Richland counties," he said, adding the growth of Charlotte's metro area into South Carolina could partly explain the large number of Tar Heel transplants.

All this moving around is a stark change from earlier decades, said Edgar, director of USC's Institute for Southern Studies.

"Until World War II, the overwhelming majority of people in South Carolina ... were native born." That changed in the 1950s. "Think of the tens of thousands of people who came to work at the Savannah River Site and how it changed the face of that area."

The migrations of black South Carolinians to Northern states and then back in the latter half of the 20th century also changed the fabric of the state, Edgar said. Many black people left rural areas of the state for Northern cities and later returned and settled in the state's urban areas, he said.

The data also show that about 106,866 people from foreign countries moved to the state.

Mitchell speculated that some of that was from the state's growing Latin American population, which he said has transformed small towns.

In Saluda, for instance, storefront churches have replaced boarded-up buildings because of an influx of Hispanic residents, he said. "The bigger story is not only about the people moving in; it's who they are and how they change the structure of the place."

The state Office of Research and Statistics used IRS data and other sources. It compiled the numbers after The Post and Courier requested interstate migration data after 1989's Hurricane Hugo.

Edgar also said he was somewhat surprised to see the diversity of the transplants.

"We literally have people coming here from all over the country. You and I know it's a great state, but we haven't exactly had the best press over the past 10 years. Yet they're coming anyway."