Americans are Fleeing California and New York for These 10 Sun Belt Cities

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The Census Bureau released new data on domestic migration on Thursday, and patterns are beginning to change. Cities like Boise, Idaho and Phoenix, Arizona that saw massive population booms during Covid are now slowing down. In their place are booming cities across Texas and Florida. 

Let’s look at what counties are seeing the highest rates of domestic migration and what areas people are still fleeing in droves. 

Counties with the Largest Migration Declines 

New York | The skyline of New York City, United States
Source: StockByM / iStock via Getty Images

Overall, the biggest migration declines on a county level were concentrated in two primary areas: New York and California. This continues a trend that’s been happening since the beginning of Covid. However, a “silver lining” that you’ll notice is the drop in populations in many of these counties is beginning to subside. Many more people left New York in 2022 than 2023, for example. 

10. Santa Clara County, California: Down 29,077 People

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: -33,302
  • 2023 Net Migration: -29,077
  • Largest City: San Jose, California 

The rate of domestic migration decline in Santa Clara County is slowing, but the county continues to lose population due to its high cost of living. Santa Clara is home to more than 1.8 million people and includes much of Silicon Valley including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and Cupertino. 

9. San Diego County, California: Down 30,745 People 

San+Diego-Carlsbad-San+Marcos+CA+skyline | Downtown San Diego from Coronado Island
Source: kenlund / Flickr

  • 2022 Net Migration: -15,956
  • 2023 Net Migration: -30,745
  • Largest City: San Diego, California 

The rate of people leaving San Diego for other U.S. counties accelerated in 2023, placing it ninth on the list of counties people are fleeing. Once again, surging housing prices and cost of living increases are the primary culprits for population loss. San Diego County stretches from south of San Clemente to the Mexican border and is home to more than 3 million people. 

8. Dallas County, Texas: Down 34,330 People 

ARLINGTON+Texas+skyline | Dallas, Texas Skyline from I-35 Eastbound
Source: kenlund / Flickr

  • 2022 Net Migration: -18,985
  • 2023 Net Migration: -34,330
  • Largest City: Dallas, Texas

Dallas may be a surprising entry on this list. After all, Texas continues to boom. In fact, the Dallas metro area (including all suburbs) is still growing strong. It added 152,598 people in 2023. However, Dallas County – which includes the city of Dallas and surrounding areas – has seen net migration declines as people are moving to the city’s suburbs at a much faster rate than its urban core. 

7. Orange County, California: Down 35,597 People 

Source: USA-TARO / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: -27,681
  • 2023 Net Migration: -35,597
  • Largest City: Anaheim, California 

Orange County is one of three Southern California counties to make this list. Its rate of people leaving accelerated in 2023 as well. Like other parts of Southern California, the high cost of living is causing many people to move to cheaper areas. 

6. Bronx County, New York: Down 41,473 People

Source: dhdezvalle / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: -61,394
  • 2023 Net Migration: -41,473
  • Largest City: Part of New York City, New York 

Bronx County is the first of three counties in New York City to make this list. Like other New York counties, the rate of domestic migration is starting to slow. If trends of declining migration continue, Bronx County will see its rate of people leaving to moving in stabilize in about 2025. 

5. Miami-Dade County, Florida: Down 47,597 People 

Miami+Florida | Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Source: pom-angers / Flickr

  • 2022 Net Migration: -38,132
  • 2023 Net Migration: -47,597
  • Largest City: Miami, Florida

Miami-Dad is another entry on this list that might be surprising. It’s in the Sun Belt and migration into Florida is booming across the state. Yet, Miami’s seen more Americans moving out than into the county thanks to high cost of living. 

4. Queens County, New York: Down 50,161 People 

Source: Bim / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: -77,029
  • 2023 Net Migration: -50,161
  • Largest City: Part of New York City, New York 

Queens is our second New York City county (borough) on this list. While Queens has been shedding population since the start of Covid, it’s home to more than 2.2 million people. If its rate of migration decline slows as much as it did between 2022 and 2023, its population decline should stop by 2025. 

3. Kings County, New York: Down 55,308 People 

Source: goncharovaia / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: -78,188
  • 2023 Net Migration: -55,308
  • Largest City: Part of New York City, New York 

Kings County, better known as Brooklyn, is seeing the highest migration rates of any New York borough. It saw a net migration of -55,308 people in 2023. Like other New York boroughs, the rate of people leaving is beginning to slow. 

2. Cook County, Illinois: Down 58,105 People 

Source: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

  • 2022 Net Migration: -94,927
  • 2023 Net Migration: -58,105
  • Largest City: Chicago, Illinois 

Cook County is the second-largest county in the United States, with more than 5 million residents. However, its population has been in steep decline since Covid started. A “silver lining” for Cook County and Chicago is that its rate of exodus dropped by 38% in 2023. 

1. Los Angeles County: Down 119,037 People

Source: Ron and Patty Thomas / E+ via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: -143,724
  • 2023 Net Migration: -119,037
  • Largest City: Los Angeles, California  

And we finally reach “the biggest loser” on our list of counties people are fleeing. Los Angeles County is massive, home to just under 10 million people. However, that number continues to shrink thanks to sky-high domestic migration. Last year a net total of 119,037 left the county to move elsewhere in the United States. 

10 Sunbelt Cities Americans are Fleeing To 

Fort+Lauderdale+Florida | Fort Lauderdale Beach
Source: epitomized / Flickr

So, where are Americans moving to if they’re fleeing New York and California? The short answer is Sun Belt cities that generally have lower cost of living and favorable weather. This trend has been in place since the start of Covid but shows few signs of slowing down in areas like Florida and Texas. 

10. Horry County: Home to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 17,294
  • 2023 Net Migration: 15,061
  • Largest City: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 

Horry County is home to just over 400,000 residents but is growing fast. The area includes the “Grand Strand,” a massive uninterrupted beachfront. In addition, it’s home to an incredible number of golf courses that’s another bonus for retirees. 

9. Mario County: Home to Ocala, Florida 

Source: Michael Warren / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 13,409
  • 2023 Net Migration: 15,167
  • Largest City: Ocala, Florida

You’ll notice that most the cities people are fleeing to are significantly smaller than where they’re leaving. That’s because smaller cities generally have a lower cost of living. In 1970, Mario County was home to less than 70,000 residents, but has surpassed 400,000 today. It’s home to The Villages, which is one of the world’s largest retirement communities in the world. 

8. Fort Bend County: Home to Sugar Land, Texas

Source: AlizadaStudios / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 17,796
  • 2023 Net Migration: 15,575
  • Largest City: Sugar Land, Texas 

Fort Bend County is home to a series of booming suburbs around Houston, Texas. The largest city is Sugar Land, which had a population of less than 9,000 in 1980 and today has grown to more than 110,000 people. The city is home to several major companies including CVR Energy, Minute Maid, Imperial Sugars, and has a large Schlumberger campus. Which is to say, with lots of jobs comes people moving to the city! 

7. Pinal County: Home to Maricopa, Arizona 

Source: DenisTangneyJr / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 14,075
  • 2023 Net Migration: 17,463
  • Largest City: Maricopa, Arizona

Maricopa is a suburb of Phoenix that is in Pinal County. Pinal County is growing fast as houses are affordable and it sits between Phoenix and Tuscon. Like many other counties that are seeing strong domestic migration, its appeal is a combination of sunny weather and low cost of living. 

6. Williamson County: Home to Round Rock, Texas

Source: Thinkstock

  • 2022 Net Migration: 20,520
  • 2023 Net Migration: 17,943
  • Largest City: Round Rock, Texas 

The population of Williamson County is absolutely exploding. Its largest city is Round Rock, which is home to Dell Computer. Round Rock is just 20 miles north of Austin, which helps explain the surge in people moving to the city. Austin is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in America thanks to housing that’s (relatively) more affordable than Silicon Valley and an influx of technology companies. 

5. Denton County: Home to Denton, Texas 

Source: texasbackroads / Flickr

  • 2022 Net Migration: 23,657
  • 2023 Net Migration: 19,262
  • Largest City: Denton, Texas

Notice a trend that booming Sun Belt suburbs have the highest migration in the country? We just saw an Austin suburb on our list, and Denton adds a suburb near Dallas. Denton County is now home to more than a million people. Major employers driving growth include Peterbilt and the University of North Texas. 

4. Collin County: Home of Plano, Texas 

Source: Gary Fink / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 29,755
  • 2023 Net Migration: 20,749
  • Largest City: Plano, Texas

The suburbs of Dallas are booming! Plano is home to nearly 300,000 residents and domestic migration keeps flowing into the city. One key reason is all the companies locating in Plano. JPMorgan, Capital One, Toyota, AT&T, Ericsson, Liberty Mutual, Samsung, Pepsi, and Frito-Lay all employ more than 1,500 people in the city. All those major employers create jobs that people move to Plano for. 

3. Pasco County: Home of Wesley Chapel

Source: DeborahMaxemow / E+ via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 24,283
  • 2023 Net Migration: 23,750
  • Largest City: Wesley Chapel, Florida

Pasco County isn’t well-known, it’s north of the Tampa Bay area and features few established cities. In fact, the largest “city” in the county is a Census Designated Place called Wesley Chapel. Yet, the combination of cheap housing and great weather has led to a population boom.

2. Montgomery County: Home of The Woodlands 

Source: GJGK Photography / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 22,770
  • 2023 Net Migration: 25,501
  • Largest City: The Woodlands, Texas

In 1970, Montgomery County was home to less than 50,000 people. Today more than 710,000 people live in this county, which borders Houston. If current growth rates continue, the county could exceed a million residents within the next decade! 

1. Polk County: Home of Lakeland 

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

  • 2022 Net Migration: 29,606
  • 2023 Net Migration: 26,029
  • Largest City: Lakeland, Florida

The county with the highest domestic net migration in 2022 was Polk County, and it retains the crown in 2023. The city sits between Orland and Tampa in what’s becoming a booming corridor. It shouldn’t surprise you why people are moving here: it’s sunny and warm year-round and houses are affordable. 

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