Who’s moving where: 2015 edition.

New Census and IRS data let us follow the people, and the money

By Matt Carmichael on September 3, 2015 at 2:47 pm CDT
IRS Migration - Counties gaining and losing income

Both the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service released updates to their migration data recently.

The topline from the Census is that nearly one in five movers leave one metro area and relocate to another. That amounts to about 8.5 million people in the last year out of roughly 42.5 million total movers.

According to the Census, the largest metro flows were between Los Angeles and Riverside in California (90,500); Riverside to Los Angeles (54,700); and New York and Philadelphia (27,000).

The Census further dug into the data by looking at language spoken, place of birth and the amount of time people have lived in the U.S. The results can be seen here, with a great interactive mapping tool here. That tool will show you county-by-county who’s moving where.

As interesting as the Census data is, the IRS data allows you to do one extra important bit of analysis: follow the money.

In addition to showing who’s moving where county to county, the IRS is in the unique position to track the income that’s moving with it. Some quick notes: The IRS measures tax returns (a rough equivalent to households); exemptions (a rough equivalent to people); and adjusted gross income.

Between 2012 and 2013 123,799 new tax returns were filed in Los Angeles County, leading the nation in the in-flow of migrant households. Here’s the top 10 counties, based on households (returns) moving in:

Of course people move out, too and often the biggest gainers are also the biggest losers. Big metro areas are major economic hubs and tend to churn people and jobs. People also leave big urban counties and move to slightly more suburban neighbors. Here are the top 10 counties based on households (returns) moving out:


IRS Migration - Population Moving In

You see a lot of the same names on both lists. Which brings us to the slightly more useful measure of net migration. Here are the big winners:

IRS Migration - Population Gains

The biggest net losers are all counties that house major metro hub cities, but also encompass the inner-ring suburbs that are struggling in so many areas because they are often that awkward middle ground that lacks the amenities of a downtown while not being fully “suburbanized.” Miami-Dade, Los Angeles, Chicago’s Cook County, Manhattan and Detroit’s Wayne County all lost population due to migration.

But let’s talk about the stat that’s really the most interesting, and the subject of our map above: Net change in aggregate income. Which counties are gaining and losing money not just people? Many of the biggest losers are places of high per-capita income so it makes sense that as people leave they take those big piles of cash with them. It’s yet another sign of the income inequality issues facing our nation that a county with low net loss of people (roughly 125 in San Francisco County) can mean a loss of so much money ($865 million).

IRS Migration - Counties losing income

Which counties are gaining money? Here we see some new entrants to our lists. In addition to the usual suspects in Texas and Phoenix (keep in mind this data is a couple of years old when energy prices/revenues were higher) we start to see some wealthy retirement communities like Sarasota County and Collier County, Fla. home to Naples. Douglas County, home to some of Denver’s fast-growing high-end suburbs joins the list as well.

IRS Migration - Counties gaining income


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