The 10 Truths and Trends in the New West

The Sonoran Institute, supported by the foundation, Earth Friends, released the report, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Cowboy: 10 Truths and Trends in the New American West,” last week. The 10 truths are listed below:

1. The West is more than big cities and remote rural landscapes: Beyond urban areas and expanses of open, rural lands, small town living is beginning to dominate the West.

2. Your next job will likely be in services: Seventy percent of all new jobs created in the West between 1970 and 2000 were service and professional jobs.

3. More and more of us don’t have conventional jobs: Non-labor income, such as retirement and investments, is now the second largest source of income (after services) in the West.

4. The more you learn, the more you earn: Places that successfully educate their young and attract and retain educated workers are seeing rising wages.

5. Public lands benefit the economy of the West: Personal income, adjusted for inflation, grows faster in counties with a significant percentage of public land.

6. The extractive economy of the Old West is rare in the New West: Mining, energy development and timber production are waning in the West. Even with the push for energy development, few truly resource-dependent counties are left.

7. Agriculture is not growing: As the rest of the economy grows, agriculture’s importance in terms of jobs and income has diminished, and in some cases the industry is having trouble competing for scare resources, such as water.

8. More residences don’t mean extra tax revenues: The financial contribution that new residences make via tax revenues is far outweighed by their increased demand on the local infrastructure and services.

9. Energy development has high opportunity costs: Pursuing limited oil and gas resources could jeopardize the emerging competitive advantage of the West: quality of life.

10. Standard of living is not the same as quality of life: Economic success is often measured in terms of growth. While growth is a good gauge for comparing different regions, it is often a misleading instrument for understanding well-being.

The Sonoran Institute’s complete report is available online at