Not Born In Las Vegas? You're Not Alone But Do You Call Las Vegas Home?

Almost everyone in Nevada is from someplace else. The New York Times released “Mapping Migration in the United States” – an interactive map that shows population relocation patterns in the country.

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Nevada has the lowest percentage of people who were born here and decide to remain here - fewer than one in four Nevadans took their first breath here, according to the New York Times. 

Compare those numbers with California where 55 percent of Californians were born there.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, in 2012, 75 percent of the state's growth came from people relocating from other states; 21 percent of Nevadans were born outside the United States. 

Surprisingly, the percentage of Nevadans who were born here hasn’t changed since the 1950s.

Las Vegas native Earnest Phillips told KNPR’s State of Nevada he moved from southern Nevada to Seattle because he wanted a different life for his family.

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He said after spending years in the community trying to make it feel like a community he felt like things were just not changing.

“It felt like you were trying to turn a battleship and it wasn’t turning,” Phillips said. “No matter what we do, it won’t change.”

Sociologists say the state’s high transience means that newcomers often do not feel a need to build community and sometimes make decisions that reflect the lack of attachments.

“When I talk to my students, even those who are born here, their parents are not usually from here,” Christie Batson, sociology professor at UNLV said. “That lack of long time residence makes its footprint on overall culture, of course.”

Batson said residents feel isolated and some of that isolation is because of how the city is laid out.

“We live in a wide valley full of urban sprawl full of neighborhoods that some are gated some are not gated. The housing developments and the architecture impedes a lot of social interaction with each other” Batson said.

She said most cities have a “binding icon,” a symbolic center which residents can identify with but the symbolic center of Las Vegas is the Strip, which is a place that is full of tourists and not a place locals go unless they work there.

Despite the criticism over the lack of community, native A’shanti Gholar, who moved from her hometown to Washington, D.C., said she is who she is because she was raised in Nevada.

“The reason I am where I am in my career is because of the awesome people in Nevada,” Gholar said. “Because of Nevada, I get to be the person I am today.”

She said she found it easier to meet people in Las Vegas than in Washington, D.C.

“We’re normal people. We have normal lives,” Gholar said.

Tony Feller move to Las Vegas from Washington, D.C. moved 18 years ago.

“They’re going to bury me here,” Feller said.

He said Las Vegas as the same activities as other cities.

“Some people believe because we have the Strip and Fremont Street that we don’t have anything else,” Feller said. “Anything you can do at other cities you can do here. It’s just that our center of town is a little more active.”

He points out there are bowling leagues, bicycling groups, and hiking clubs, just like in other cities.  

Feller said he especially feels part of his neighborhood.

Batson said neighborhoods matter because they help people form attachments to their home and form important friendships.

“Neighborhoods serve as buffers to the urban stress,” Batson said.   


Tony Feller, Security Guard at Alarmco

Christie D. Batson, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, UNLV

Earnest Phillips II, Executive Director, Communications, Seattle College

A’shanti Gholar, Director of African American and Youth Engagement at Democratic National Committee

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