Domestic Migration Hits Lows Last Seen in the 1940s

November 1, 2011

The University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute analyzed data from the Internal Revenue Service and compared the 2005-7 American Community Survey to the 2008-10 data released Oct. 27 by the Census Bureau; it found that domestic migration has hit its lowest level since the 1940s as a result of the economic downturn. 

People are staying put, worried that they will be unable to find work elsewhere and unable to sell their existing homes, in many cases, even if they could.  Massachusetts, New York, California, and other states that have lost population in recent years retained more residents in 2010; while states like Florida, Arizona, and Nevada that welcomed more new residents than others are seeing fewer people settle there.  Florida, for instance, posted a net migration loss of 30,000 in 2009 — its first since the 1940s — compared to a net migration gain of 209,000 in 2005.  The report shows that migration within states has slowed as well. 

Meanwhile, young professionals between the ages of 25 and 34 are no longer flocking to the Sun Belt states.  In terms of migration among young people, Atlanta fell to No. 23 from third place in the 2005-7 survey, while Phoenix dropped to No. 17 from No. 2, and Las Vegas slipped to No. 35 from No. 10.  Over the same period, Washington rose to No. 6 from No. 44, Denver rose to No. 1 from No. 12, and Boston climbed to No. 26 from No. 45. 

According to Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, "The dynamics of high housing costs on the coasts and relatively affordable inland is starting to change so, in effect, that shuts off the merry-go-round.  If nobody can buy or sell their homes, there's going to be stagnancy."

Source: "Economy Alters How Americans Are Moving," New York Times (10/28/11)

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