We all know the saying "follow the money." But what happens when you follow the people and the money? You find that they're not always moving in the same direction.
A couple of months ago we were intrigued by an interactive graphic from Forbes looking at county-by-county immigration based on IRS data. No agency is in a better position to know where people live and where they lived last year than the one charged with collecting money from us. With the advent of the earned income tax credit, more people are filing returns than ever, so this data gets better and better.
But Forbes wasn't interested in the portion of the data that we were interested in. Forget the people. Where's the money? Thankfully, the IRS can tell us that, too.
Along the same lines, the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Business took a look at population growth in the U.S. metro areas and compared it to income growth in those same areas. The institute, directed by Richard Florida, found a definite trend line showing that areas with explosive population growth in the last 25 years were harder hit by the recession than other areas.
Using the IRS database, we analyzed the migration of people and the migration of money between 2007 and 2008 (the most recent data available).
If more people left a county than moved to it, they had a net loss based on migration. They could still have had a gain in population via births, immigration from outside the U.S., etc. There were counties that had a net loss of migration population and also lost aggregate income. Big urban counties such as Wayne (Detroit), Cook (Chicago), and Los Angeles had negative net income and migration. Some (pre-recession) boom areas such as Las Vegas and Phoenix gained both, as did L.A.'s neighbor, San Bernadino.
But the interesting things are the areas where income and population influxes are happening at different rates. Take a look at these two maps.