Not all of the cities with the largest net increases in population from migration are necessarily the fastest growing cities. However, among the U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest overall population increases, it is migration — mostly domestic migration — that accounts for the largest share of that growth.
Two notable exceptions are New York and Los Angeles. Tens of thousands more people moved out of each city than moved in. However, both cities have still had among the highest net increases in population due to natural population growth — hundreds of thousands more people in these cities have been born than have died. Notably, Los Angeles had a net migration loss of 93,959, but the overall population increased by over three-quarters of a million people because of births.
Frey explained that movement from New York and Los Angeles to many of the cities with the largest net migration gains is due to residents of these cities getting pushed out due to rising populations and rising prices, a product of the economic recovery. “Now that things are picking up again, people are moving out of cities. As the housing market is coming back, people are being sucked out of pricey areas to where it is more affordable again.”
Frey gave the example of one common migration pattern: Los Angeles to Las Vegas, the latter of which had the 15th highest net population increase due to migration, at 166,153. Las Vegas, Frey noted, has always added people seeking to move out of the bigger city, but when the recession hit and housing prices fell, that movement slowed significantly.
Now that Los Angeles housing prices have increased to unsustainable levels for many residents, people are once again moving out of the city in droves. As of 2016, Los Angeles had the seventh highest median home value of any metropolitan area, at $578,200. Las Vegas’ median home value is just slightly more than half that, at $233,700.
“The same sort of thing is true for a place like New York,” Frey said. “There has always been huge movement going from New York to Florida, but during the Great Recession period that slowed up quite a bit, and now it is picking up again.”
While most of these cities are in states known as retirement destinations, Frey cautioned that the narrative of retirees moving to the Sun Belt is frequently exaggerated and should not be interpreted as the reason cities like Miami, Phoenix Tampa, and Orlando have added a net of several hundred thousand more people.
Though some older people may move to so-called retirement destination, most older people prefer not to move. “The highest migration rates are people in their 20’s and early 30’s,” Frey said. Some of the places that are gaining the most migrants will gain a large share of the older population that is moving, like cities in Arizona and Florida, for example. “But even among the migrants who come to Arizona and Florida, only a tiny share are older people.”
To identify the Cities Americans are Flocking to, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the annual estimates of resident population and the estimates of the components of residential population change from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017, provided by the American Community Survey. Population, and home value data also came from the 2016 American Community Survey.