Where Are Americans Moving? According to New Census Data, Utah.

A group of states experienced strong gains, while much of the Midwest and Northeast lost residents via migration.
by | December 20, 2016
Utah is experiencing a recent spike in migration as more residents move to Salt Lake City and other municipalities in the state. (Flickr/mateoutah)

Census population estimates released Tuesday show where Americans are moving, with several new states emerging as top destinations.

Most notably, a group of Western states that includes Nevada, Oregon and Washington continue to welcome more residents. Meanwhile, out-migration recently accelerated in the Northeast while maintaining similar rates across much of the Midwest.

The net migration figures -- both domestic and international -- reported by the Census Bureau cover changes in population over the 12-month period ending in July.

For the second straight year, Florida registered the top migration rate of any state, with about 16 new residents per 1,000 population. After slowing somewhat during the recession, migration has picked back up as more retirees establish residency in the Sunshine State.

Not too far behind was Nevada, a state whose migration patterns have followed a similar trajectory, adding a net total of 42,000 residents via migration last year. The state also reported the second highest percentage increase in total population.

Other states with among the highest migration rates haven’t traditionally gained new residents at such high rates.

Oregon, where population increases in Portland have spread to the rest of the state, recorded a net increase of 14 residents per 1,000 population, essentially doubling since 2014. To the north, migration for Washington state has increased each of the past several years and is now up to fourth highest nationally. Rounding out the top five was Idaho, which saw its migration rate more than double for the year as it welcomed an influx of new residents.

Utah is another state experiencing a recent spike in migration. The state with the nation’s youngest demographics has historically relied largely on births for its population gains. But significantly more residents moving in last year propelled its overall population increase to the top rate of any state. Utah was the only state with an annual increase in total population -- including migration and natural change -- exceeding 2 percent.

Americans are still migrating to the South at greater rates than they are to West or elsewhere. But the Census data signal a possible shift in that migration to the West continued to climb while it slowed for the Southern U.S., albeit not by much. Because western states also recorded higher birth rates, the region surpassed the South for the largest percentage increase in total population over the 12-month period.

No state outside of the South and Western U.S. saw strong migration gains this year. Delaware, New Hampshire and South Dakota all reported more modest growth, however.

According to Census estimates, the Midwest lost nearly 232,000 residents to other regions of the country last year, while gaining about 134,000 from abroad. With the exception of Minnesota and South Dakota, all states throughout the region reported either losses or negligible net increases.

In the Northeast, out-migration appears to be picking up, slightly exceeding the Midwest over the past year.  States like Connecticut and New York continue to register net migration losses, despite immigrants relocating from other countries.

North Dakota, more so than any other state, experienced a dramatic reversal in recent years. The state’s migration growth had consistently ranked among the best nationally as workers pursued jobs in the rapidly expanding energy sector. That all came to a halt with the drop-off in oil production. The latest Census estimates suggest the state lost about 6,300 residents domestically, the first annual decline in several years.

Illinois and Wyoming recorded the steepest recent declines in net migration of any state, losing an estimated 6.5 residents per 1,000 population.

State Migration Rates

The following table lists states' net migration rates, or the number of residents moving to a state domestically or from abroad per 1,000 population.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau data current as of July of each year