Recent U.S. Migration Data

As a follow-up to James’ Candidates From Nowhere post yesterday, the Charlotte [NC] Observer has an interesting (time-wasting?) interactive graphic of US county-to-county moves (moves in and out of counties, though you have to toggle between the two) based on 2000-2005 IRS tax returns, confirming we are a mobile society. The data shows most moves are relatively local, such as from the urban areas to the suburbs or adjacent counties, but there are also interesting city-pairings such as Charlotte NC and Buffalo NY, a rust belt to warmer climate move. The accompanying article (reg req’d)

On the shores of Lake Erie, the city of Buffalo and other communities have withered.
Two-thirds of cities and towns in upstate New York lost population this decade…

Since its 1950s high, Buffalo’s population has declined by more than half, to around 280,000. Meanwhile, since 2000, Charlotte has added 46,000 residents. And now, an Observer analysis of new data from the Internal Revenue Service shows a significant chunk of upstate New York’s population has moved to the Charlotte region….

Why the Carolinas?
Better weather, for one. Also, it’s roughly a one-day drive from the upstate. In recent years, the pipeline of previously arrived friends and family members has also fueled the trend. Here, New York transplants become part of the growth pressures straining roads and schools and sparking retail and cultural development. Back home, their departures cause the opposite pressures, with governments struggling to cope with declining tax bases and theater companies closing.

There are even Upstate New York oriented restaurants establish in the Charlotte area. These aren’t just the traditional retirees moving south, but families and recent college graduates.

Looking at OTB’s “home” of Fairfax County, VA, the out-of-area immigrants come from large cities (LA, Boston), or areas of large military concentrations (San Diego, Honolulu, Virginia Beach, Cumberland NC (Fayetteville), Bexar TX (San Antonio)), with similar numbers returning to the counties with large military bases. Looking at adjacent Prince William County, home of Quantico Marine Corps Base, the top out-of-area sources of moves are from counties with Marine bases, Onslow NC (Camp Legune), San Diego (Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar, plus Navy), Virginia Beach (Dam Neck, Little Creek, and Navy), Honolulu (All Services).

The grass is not always greener elsewhere either, or people that are inclined to make a major move are more inclined to move again. Most locations I looked at had movements to and from Maricopa AZ (Phoenix) and Clark NV (Las Vegas), plus Queens NY (odd). Perhaps you can find patterns in your own county.

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


  1. Gollum says:

    Richard – I have to ask – what is an “Upstate New York oriented restaurant”?

  2. Gollum says:

    Ah, nevermind, it’s in the linked piece.

    I was thinking of restaurants with gimmicky dishes, like “PCB-burger” or “Prison-Break Steak” or “Kudzu Vine Salad.” Or maybe “Adirondack Park Preserves” which are very pretty to look at but turn somewhat bitter when they are shoved down your throat.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Geez….haven’t you guys heard of Buffalo Wings?

  4. Looking at my own county, I notice that 1) we have a net migration out of the county 2) the the median income of those entering is about 1/3 lower than the county medium, 3) the medium income of those leaving is about 20% lower than the county medium, 4) the net effect is migration lowers the county medium income significantly.

    Also, every neighboring county had net migration increases, with my county being the largest source for all of them and those migrating in had higher incomes than those migrating out for all 6 surrounding counties.

    One other feature was that the top 5 counties people were moving from was also the top 5 counties people were moving to (net leaving for each of the top five). I suspect all this reflects our being a college town and the county’s principle city is dominated by tax and spend liberals. Those who have something to tax move elsewhere.

  5. Richard Gardner says:

    Indeed it is Buffalo Wings, and more, like weck and white-hots, whatever they are. The article linked above states,

    As a result, neighborhoods around Charlotte are filling with people who prefer beef on weck (roast beef on a special salty roll) and white-hots (spicy white hot dogs) to barbecue and pimento cheese.

    Upstate New York-oriented restaurants such as Tavern on the Tracks in South End and Township Grille in Matthews are thriving. And the area will be the first place outside Buffalo for expansion of the Anchor Bar, pioneer of the famed Buffalo wings

  6. Maggie says:

    Seems like the NYC metro area is having a return of Greatest Generation “snow birds” as they have either lost a partner and/or one or both parents now need additional family assistance-in-living. We are seeing increased migration from Florida returning North.

  7. Jennifer says:

    This article bothers me. I would suggest that tis not the glorious weather of NC but the sheer fact that jobs are more plentiful there. Not impossible to find in Buffalo, but more difficult, perhaps.

    If your idea of retail and cultural development includes more strip malls and movieplexes, have fun in Charlotte, NC. But if you are looking for quality of life- four seasons, gorgeous architecture, affordable living, urban independent shopping districts, world class art museums…a plethora of dining (outside of the typical Buffalo fare of wings/weck/dogs) and music venues, and the friendliest City of Good Neighbors around, Buffalo wins hands down.