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Broward vs. Miami-Dade

April 2, 2012

Cautionary note:  This post engages in broad generalizations, to which there are, of course, numerous exceptions.  Well, I guess that covers that.

When I first arrived in South Florida, I was struck by the nasty things that people who live in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County had to say about Miami.  I would sometimes get disparaging remarks about Broward from Miami residents, but not as often and not as vehement–in fact, they often seemed just a little defensive.

I once asked a realtor who was showing us around Fort Lauderdale if he also worked in Miami-Dade, and his response was something like “Good God, no!” with appropriately emotive body language and facial expressions.  He then went on at considerable length about why we wouldn’t want to live in Miami.  Other people I talked to would say things like:  “Oh, I never go to Miami” or “I hate Miami” or “It’s like a foreign country there.”

I have come to conclude that the last remark is at the core of the divide.  For a least a couple of decades, Miami-Dade has been majority Hispanic with a large Haitian community as well as great numbers of immigrants from elsewhere. As late as 2000, Broward was—but no longer is—majority non-Hispanic white (to use Census Bureau terminology) or as we used to say in Texas: “Anglo.”  As Miami became more Hispanic from the ‘60s on, many Anglo residents left for Broward.

According to the 2010 census, about two-thirds of Miami-Dade residents are of Hispanic or Latino origin. Slightly over half of the population is foreign-born (not all Latino, of course).  Only about one-sixth of the population is Anglo/white, which is slightly less than the black population.  More than 70 percent speak a language other than English at home.

In Broward, only about a quarter of the population is Hispanic, and about 30 percent are foreign-born. A little over one-third of the population speak a foreign language at home.  In ten years since the 2000 census, however, the Anglo/white population slipped from 58 to 43 percent, and blacks are a little over a quarter of the population.  So it appears that something like the demographic changes that transformed Miami-Dade are now happening in Broward, and some Anglo residents who don’t feel comfortable with that are moving further north to Tea Party country.

But for now, the neighboring counties do feel rather different.  To me, Miami seems much more urban and cosmopolitan—a great big ethnic and cultural stew.  There are times in parts of Miami and Miami Beach when I get flashbacks of Rio—or Brooklyn.  It seems more chaotic and less planned.  There is a bit more history there (though neither place really goes back very far), and because Miami’s growth spurt happened sooner, there are more neighborhoods gone to seed, though some have come back in spectacular fashion.

Fort Lauderdale seems newer and tidier and, to me, more suburban and white bread—kind of like Charlotte, NC but with a beach and more gays.  Indeed, without the gay community (material for at least another post or two), I think the place would seem pretty dull.  Las Olas is nice, but I find it a bit Disneyfied.  (To be fair, Mary Brickell Village in Miami is sort of the same thing.)  And Broward is probably a bit safer—and a lot smugger.

Miami and Miami-Dade have a well-deserved reputation for political corruption, while Broward has had a somewhat better image.  But that may have been illusionary, as recent revelations of corruption in the county have emerged.   Miami might have been the cocaine hub of the ‘80s, but Broward is the epicenter of  prescription drug fraud and distribution for the US today.

The traffic is terrible no matter where you go.

In the end, you wind up in the place that most closely fits your personality regardless of what people tell you.  When I first was considering moving to South Florida, I asked several people where I should go if I had a heart attack.  One lady (African-American and a Miami resident, as it happened) told me:  “Well, if it was me, I’d drag my ass across the Broward County line and call  911.”

I took note, but wound up in Miami anyway.

  1. The woman at the end has that right: 911 operators in Miami are profoundly useless. I actually don’t think I’ve ever successfully received an emergency response while using it; instead, I’ve been told that they were too busy to respond to the emergencies I’ve reported (crime in progress, medical emergency, etc.).

    Beyond that, Miami is quite simply more fun than Broward. If you’re looking for quiet, go there, if you’re looking for excitement, head south.

  2. a moist welcome to the swamp for SF Beginners

  3. Robert permalink

    Wow this really helps put things into perspective. I will be moving to Fort Lauderdale in 2 months and was possibly considering Miami but the time I’ve been there, it’s exactly like your story. Great blog!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The difference between Miami-Dade and Broward « The Legal Satyricon
  2. Broward vs. Miami-Dade (South Florida for Beginners) | The Real Miami

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