Leaving California for Texas? Mapping where Americans move.
| View caption Hide caption Jacob Turcotte Graphics editor Karen Norris Graphics editor
California is shrinking.
No, the state isn’t falling into the Pacific Ocean. But after decades of growth, America’s most populous state has been shedding residents for the past several years, while rivals Texas and Florida continue to gain.
Part of the explanation has to do with trends in immigration, births, and deaths, but an important factor is also people choosing to move across state lines for reasons that can range from jobs or housing costs to things like politics, outdoor amenities, and family ties.
Why We Wrote This
A story focused onTransformation
Last year saw a surge in Americans moving – and more often away from big cities – compared with the pre-pandemic year of 2019. We explore the trends in maps and graphics.
As the charts with this article show, it’s not just the largest states that are seeing this kind of ebb and flow. Last year, domestic migration was boosting population growth across much of the South and in mountain states like Idaho and Montana.
Meanwhile, a number of states saw meaningful outflows, notably with New York and Illinois losing close to 1% of their population (0.9% and 0.8% respectively), according to U.S. census data. Our first map signals all this, although it also gets more granular – with a focus on cities that are gaining or losing residents to domestic migration.
U.S. Census Bureau, National Association of Realtors, WalletHub
The pace of migration was way up in 2022 over the pre-pandemic year of 2019, although the general trend in recent years is toward Americans actually migrating at a bit slower rates than in the past. Partly this reflects a rising average age of households. And young people, often facing high housing costs and rents, are making fewer within-county moves than in the past. Yet they are still moving to different states at similar rates as in prior decades.
The reasons people move are varied. Climate may be a growing factor in places like storm-wracked Louisiana, where the population has been declining.
Economic factors play a prominent role, many experts say. A search for more affordable housing (see home prices in our second map) may have accelerated as the post-pandemic job market allows more opportunities to work remotely. Higher-tax states (see our third map) are also among the places losing population – sometimes with wealthier residents leading the migratory march.
“If these shifts hold or continue, they will have serious impacts on the country’s economic geography, leaving some regions flush with new resources and others struggling to fill eroded tax bases,” notes a new report from the Economic Innovation Group, a nonprofit that researches economic policies.
Challenges may be especially big for large cities, many of which have been shedding population relative to suburbs and exurbs. Still, demographer William Frey at the Brookings Institution cites evidence that an “urban core turnaround” may be underway.