State migration has steadily dwindled in recent years, with more Americans deciding not to pack their bags. But for those who do move across state lines, it’s often the economy that's driving their decisions.
New Census data shows Texas, North Carolina and Florida led the way in adding out-of-state residents in 2010. Texas reported the highest net gain, with nearly 75,000 more immigrating to the state than moving away.
Steve Murdock, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said employment opportunities loom large in mobility. The new figures, he said, reflect a historical shift in migration from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and western U.S.
“It’s a function of things being somewhat better in the South and West combined with very difficult times, particularly in the Midwest,” Murdock said.
It’s no surprise that Midwestern states with large manufacturing workforces struggle to attract out-of-staters. Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio all reported net losses in migration.
Murdock, a Rice University professor, said a strong energy sector aided Texas in weathering the sluggish economy.
Still, migration has greatly receded in Texas and other areas. Murdock said the state had gained an annual average of about 200,000 residents during the previous decade, more than double the current rate.
“Migration is not the driver it was three or four years ago,” he said. “It has been substantially impacted by the downturn in the economy.”
The largest net gains in 2010 domestic migration occurred in the following states:
Along with employment, other economic factors also weigh on a person’s decision to move.
Hernan Winkler, a UCLA economist, suggests expenses related to selling a home impede mobility. In a 2010 study, he found homeowners with decreases in home equity were 40 percent less mobile.
Camille Landais, a fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, said Texas and other states with no state income tax can also entice potential movers. State welfare programs, combined with tax incentives, additionally lure low income families, Landais said.
California experienced the most outward migration in 2010, with an estimated net loss of 129,000 residents moving to other states. Top destinations for Californians included Texas, Arizona and Washington state.
Landais said California’s high unemployment, at 11.7 percent in October, contributed to its outward migration. Prices of goods and services continued to climb, further complicating matters for lower income areas.
“There are places that are hard to live when you’re middle income or unemployed,” Landais said.
Where are Americans moving?
Use the tool below to view where residents in your state are moving to. Please note that some estimates, particularly for smaller states, have high margins of error.
GOVERNING By the Numbers is a companion to GOVERNING Data that digests the growing body of work at the intersection of computer-assisted journalism, data visualization and government transparency.
GOVERNING By the Numbers is dedicated to telling important stories through numbers, with a focus on both our original work in data visualization on GOVERING Data and providing an ongoing tally of editor's picks of new and notable data releases of use to those in government and those who care about it.