THE GRID: MAGNETIC SOUTH
American's mobility patterns trend this way: What's hot is hot, especially when you look at both traditional and nouveau Sun Belt locales' magnetic appeal to domestic movers recently. What's not hot is hot too, but that's a slightly more complex story to tell as we look at government data on who moved where in the five years leading up to the Census 2000 count three years ago. Importantly, an insight for the future gleaned from peering backward a few years is this: As technology abounds and as connectedness removes the limitations geography has long placed on business development, a stunning reversal is occurring in domestic migratory patterns. Whereas people have usually moved to where the jobs are, we're now beginning to see evidence that more and more jobs and money are moving to where people want to be. Amenities — from trendy restaurants to Internet access — and natural beauty are no longer mutually exclusive, so moving to major metropolitan industrial centers in the nation's Northeastern regions will never again dominate America's migratory pattern, particularly as the total population ages.
The big picture is that not everyone moves, but an awful lot of people do. Almost 1 in 2 people over the age of 5 (120 million people) moved at least one time between 1995 and 2000, according to a Census 2000 brief released at the end of September, titled “Geographical Mobility: 1995 to 2000.?? That's about 120 million of what the government terms movers, and you'd imagine that with all of those destinations and departures that occurred in that five-year period, there would be some hot destinations, and some cold ones. If you look at the state-by-state analysis, it's pretty clear that hot states for net gains in movers — i.e. more movers in than movers out — are hot states literally. From Virginia on down to Florida, and western Sun Belt states such as Texas, Nevada and Arizona are among the territories exerting the most allure for movers, whether those roamers simply moved from one home to another within the same county (25 percent), moved from one county to another within the same state (10 percent) or the roughly 10 million of us who moved from one state to another.
The most populous states such as California, New York and Illinois, notably, came out “cold?? on the in-migration meter between 1995 and 2000. On a state basis, far more people who were living in the U.S. by 1995 moved out of those states than into them. Of course, 3.3 million foreign immigrants during the same five-year period more than make up for the losses those states experienced.
At the county level, the story is that major urban centers — cities with populations greater than 5 million people — were among the biggest net losers of in-migrants. In our analysis of Census Bureau data from the period, the top five ranking counties in terms of people who moved out amounted to a total loss of 1.5 million people. The twist is this: if you look at the top five counties that netted a gain of 652,000 people in total, you'll notice that they are all close to fast-growing metropolitan areas.
*Counties with in-migrants or out-migrants of under 50 have been excluded from maps. Classification is based on quantiles (each class contains an equal number of counties) that have gained or lost a certain level of migrants.