Census Bureau: South Gains From 'Internal Migration' in U.S.; West, Midwest and Northeast Lose

By Terence P. Jeffrey | November 29, 2018 | 4:38pm EST
(Getty Image/Joe Raedle)

(CNSNews.com) - The South saw a net population gain from what the Census Bureau calls “internal migration” within the U.S. in the last year, according to data released this week, but the West, Midwest and Northeast saw net losses.

When “movers from abroad” were added to the equation, the West and Midwest ended up having positive net migration, but the Northeast was still in the negative.

At the same time, a record low 10.1 percent of American residents moved from one place to another in the last year, according to new data released by the Census Bureau.

“It is correct to say that the 2018 mover rate of 10.1 percent is a new historical low,” the Census Bureau told CNSNews.com.

The top reason people gave for why they moved from one residence to another was that they wanted a “new or better” house or apartment. The second most popular reason was that they wanted to establish their own household.

The data on if, when, why and where American residents moved during the year comes from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). This survey is conducted each year in February through April. The section in it that focuses on “migration” asks respondents whether they (and other people in their household who are 1-year old or older) are living in the same house or apartment they lived in a year ago. If the respondent or others in the household have moved during the year, follow-up questions explore where they moved and why.

In the 2018 survey, the bureau determined there were 319,319,000 residents in the United States 1-year old or older. Of these, 286,967,000 were still living in the residence they had occupied a year before, and 32,352,000—or 10.1 percent—had moved to a different residence.

That 10.1 percent was down from 11.0 percent in 2017; 11.2 percent in 2016; and 11.6 percent in 2015.

“This 2018 mover rate estimate is lower than all previous one-year CPS-ASEC estimates,” the Census Bureau told CNSNews.com. “The earliest mover rate available is for 1948.”

In the years since 1948, 1951 was the year that had the highest percentage—21.2 percent—who said they had moved in the last year.

The last time the measure was above 20 percent was 1985, when it was 20.2 percent. The last time it was above 15 percent was 2000, when it was 16.1 percent.

Among the 32,352,000 in the 2018 survey who had moved in the last year, 5,300,000—or 16.4 percent—did so because they wanted a new or better home or apartment.

That was followed by 12.6 percent who wanted to establish their own household, 11.1 percent who moved for an “other family reason,” 10.3 percent who moved for a new job or job transfer, 7.9 percent who wanted cheaper housing, 6.7 percent who moved for an “other housing reason,” 5.6 percent who moved to be closer to work or have an easier commute, 4.4 percent who had a change in marital status, 2.8 percent who moved to attend or leave college, 2.6 percent who wanted a better neighborhood or less crime, 1.5 percent because they were looking for work or had lost a job, 1.8 percent for health reasons, 1.1 percent because they were retired, and 0.7 percent for a change of climate.

The Census Bureau also tracked how many people had moved out of each of the four major regions of the country (Northeast, Midwest, South and West), how many had moved in, and what the net “internal migration” was for that region.

It then factored in “movers from abroad” and calculated total net migration including domestic “inmigrants,” “outmigrants” and “movers from abroad."

The South was the only one of the four national regions that had a positive net internal migration in the 2018 survey. Approximately 1,227,000 domestic “inmigrants” moved to the South, according to the Census, while approximately 714,000 “outmigrants” moved out—leaving the region with a positive net internal migration of approximately 512,000.

The South also saw 446,000 “movers from abroad” move into the region, bringing its total net migration up to approximately 959,000.

The Midwest, by contrast, had 518,000 domestic “inmigrants” and 555,000 “outmigrants,” leaving it with a net internal migration of approximately -38,000. However, 156,000 “movers from abroad” brought total net migration in the Midwest up to 118,000.

The West did worse on the domestic side.

There were 566,000 domestic “inmigrants” to the West, according to the Census, and 689,000 “outmigrants,” leaving the region with a net internal migration of approximately -122,000.

But 335,000 movers from abroad brought total net migration in the West back to a positive of approximately 212,000.

In the Northeast, however, even movers from abroad could not give the region a positive net migration number.

That region, according to the bureau, had 243,000 domestic “inmigrants” and 595,000 “outmigrants” for a net internal migration of -352,000. Another 229,000 movers from abroad brought the total net migration for the Northeast to approximately -124,000.

That made the Northeast the one region of the country that had a negative net migration even when “movers from abroad” were counted.

In its 2018 survey, the Census Bureau changed its sample by not including college and university dormitories. “As of the 2018 CPS-ASEC, the sample no longer includes student quarters (college/university dormitories as group quarters),” said a note on the bureau’s website. However, the bureau did not believe this would change “most 2018 migration estimates in appreciable ways.”

“As described in the user note about removal of dorms from the sample, we do not anticipate that this change affected most 2018 migration estimates in appreciable ways,” the bureau told CNSNews.com. “However, we encourage data users to be aware of this change when making comparisons with earlier data, especially when considering migration estimates by age and relationship to householder categories.”

To see a list of which states the Census Bureau considers to be in the regions it calls the North, South, Midwest and West click here.

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