People are leaving New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Charlotte and Nashville

Since the United States is a fairly dynamic place economically and socially, there are obviously multiple tiers to any discussion of its migration patterns. To simplify, since we know that Hispanic immigrants are on the rise, let’s look at it two ways, with help from The Atlantic Cities.

First, there’s net domestic migration. That means, essentially, areas within the U.S. that people are leaving, and subsequent areas that people move to:


As you can see on that map, people are actually leaving the three largest metro areas in America — NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles — and predominantly heading to Dallas, Houston, Seattle, the Carolinas, Nashville (a big block there), and central (but not necessarily southern) Florida. This is happening for a lot of reasons — one notable one is cost, and another one is the idea that social/economic mobility might be better away from the coastal cities. There’s also the idea of where to find the best talent, which for some industries might be NYC (finance) or SF (tech), but for many mid-size and small companies might be in-the-middle-college-towns (like a Madison, or a Tucson).

Now check out net international migration, i.e. where people are settling when they come to the U.S. from abroad:


That’s pretty much the reverse picture of the first map — the Northeast corridor is such a huge positive bubble it looks like it might explode, and Miami is similar (most people who choose to disparage Miami will say it’s “not really part of the U.S.;” my in-laws live there and while I enjoy it, there is some kernel of truth in that statement, for sure). Dallas and Houston are also big on the international map (makes sense, as Houston has wide swaths of Spanish-speaking communities), so this all leads you to net total migration:


In this picture, the coasts are still getting an influx of people — especially the south Florida area — but you also see insane growth in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Denver, and Phoenix-down-to-Tucson. Austin and most of that Texas energy wealth/corridor makes sense; that’s been documented for a little bit now. Denver and Fort Collins, etc. have some of the highest quality-of-life scores in America, so that makes sense too. People seem to generally be moving away from the Midwest/Rust Belt/parts of the Southeast; that’s been documented too.

Is there a broader lesson here? Probably not on an individual level, since people’s decisions about where they live tend to be extremely personal (and obviously tied to spouse/family considerations as well). From a business perspective, sure, there’s some — putting an upstart company in Denver, Nashville, Boise, or Dallas right now could be beneficial (and there’s varying degrees of cost associated with land in those places) — although in general, most people move around to what they know (or have some context with). I’ve met probably 500 people in my life who have moved, and only 2 of those were moving to a place they had never been before the move. You may see a shift in “random moves” as the millennial generation becomes a bigger part of the earning-money workforce, but still, people tend to go where (a) a good job, (b) their family or (c) their friends are, and not often to a random fourth place.

Remember also: the data above doesn’t say anything about where in an area people are moving. There can be a huge cluster around Dallas, but does that mean suburbs, city center, Fort Worth, etc? The land associated with what people construe as “Houston” is massive — are more people moving to Sugarland? Does that count Galveston? Etc, etc. So there’s some context missing from this picture, but it still provides an overall view of what people are doing when they move in the US, to the US, or generally around the US.

Ted Bauer