Migration Gives South and West Big Gains, Census Bureau Statistics Show

Rhode Island, Michigan lose most in hard-hit East and Midwest.

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By Michael Barone, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The Census Bureau released last month its estimates for state populations as of July 1, 2008, and the "components of population change," which are natural increase (births minus deaths), net international migration (a good proxy for immigration), and net domestic migration. Natural increase was 1,888,567, net international migration was 888,825, and net domestic migration for the nation was, by definition, zero. I calculated the net migration, international and domestic, for 2007-08, as a percentage of 2007 population for each state. All the big gainers—those with net migration of more than 5.0 percent—were in the West and South:

WEST     SOUTH  
Arizona 13.4   North Carolina 13.2
Wyoming 10.8   South Carolina 12.4
Colorado 10.7   Texas 9.6
Nevada 9.9   Georgia 8.7
Idaho 9.8   Tennessee 6.1
Oregon 9.2      
Washington 9      
Utah 9      
Montana 6.5      

One thing that's interesting is the states that are not on the list. California, for one, which had net domestic outmigration of 3.9 percent, offsetting almost all of its net international migration of 5.4 percent. There was a similar pattern in Florida, where there was for the first time in many years net domestic outmigration (0.5 percent), offset by net international migration of 4.2 percent. In the South, the Carolinas boomed, while growth in Georgia (which is to say metro Atlanta, which is about half the state) tapered off. Texas, with no state income tax, continues to boom, with significant net domestic migration (5.8 percent) and net international migration (3.8 percent). Tennessee, another state with no income tax, continues to outperform the other states between the Atlantic Coast and Texas. Nevada, which once topped the list, is down because of the decline of the gaming industry, which became visible in spring 2007. The Pacific Northwest remains robust, as does mineral-rich Wyoming.

Which states had negative net migration? States in the East and Midwest, plus Alaska (4.2 percent), which historically has had an outflow of people of retirement age.

EAST     MIDWEST  
Rhode Island 5.7   Michigan 9.2
Maryland 3   Ohio 3.4
Vermont 1.8   Illinois 0.5
New Jersey 1.7   Wisconsin 0.2
New York 1.6      
Maine 1.1      
Connecticut 0.9      
New Hampshire 0.7      

Michigan, hard hit by the collapse of the Big Three automakers, and Rhode Island are the only states to have lost population overall. They're obviously in bad straits. Ohio, also hurt by the Big Three's collapse, is hurting too (I noted in the election returns that northwest Ohio, the part of the state most dependent on the auto industry, saw the biggest increases in Democratic percentage for president 2004-08). Maryland has raised its taxes so that they're now perceptibly higher than in neighboring Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, and since commutes from those states are feasible to almost any point in Maryland, the state is clearly paying some price. Interestingly, New Hampshire, which used to attract domestic migrants with its low taxes, doesn't seem to be doing so anymore. One reason may be that Massachusetts taxes aren't as high as they were in the 1980s.

Data just released by United Van Lines showing the percentage of moves into and out of particular states in calendar year 2008 presents a similar picture. The states with the highest percentages of moves in (as opposed to moves out) are again mostly in the West and South, plus two in the Midwest. By the way, there are no numbers for Alaska and Hawaii, which are hard to reach by moving van.

WEST     SOUTH     MIDWEST  
Nevada 59.2   North Carolina 58.2   South Dakota 57.3
Wyoming 57.8   Alabama 58.1   Missouri 54
Oregon 55.6   South Carolina 56.4      
Colorado 54   Tennessee 54.6      
Montana 53.6   Texas 54.6      
Arizona 53.5   Arkansas 54.3      
      Louisiana 54      

And where were the largest percentages of moves out? The East and Midwest.

MIDWEST     EAST    
Michigan 67.1   New Jersey 58.7  
North Dakota 58.9   Pennsylvania 58  
Illinois 57.2   Rhode Island 57.8  
Indiana 57   Maine 55.8  
      New York 55.1  

Incidentally, California had 50.2 percent moves out versus 49.8 percent moves in. Presumably those immigrants aren't using United Van Lines.