Housing Boom? 7 Cities Where People Are Moving to

by: Ryan Avent

Matt slaps down Wendell Cox for saying that New York City has been losing people because it’s been experiencing net domestic outmigration. Immigrants and people born in cities don’t count, apparently (perhaps we can count then as three-fifths of a real American, or something?).

In fact, Cox’s assertions are lamer even than Matt makes them out to be. To begin with, he ignores the reason for the outmigration in places like New York City — housing is expensive. I have linked to this Glaeser paper more times than I can count; in it, he explains that the latest wave of migration to the Sunbelt is primarily about housing costs. Another way of saying this is that too many people want to live in New York — enough so that the city can’t build enough housing, which makes housing prices go up, which encourages outmigration. Even so, the city has added over a quarter of a million people since 2000.

Meanwhile, it looks as if a substantial share of the past decade’s migration to the sunbelt was illusory — a “migration bubble” in William Frey’s words. The latest Census data tells the tale. From 2008 to 2009, Nevada experienced a net domestic outmigration of about 4,000 people. Florida lost over 30,000 people on net — the second year in a row there was a net outflow. Inmigration to Arizona was about one tenth its 2006 level. Meanwhile, the District of Columbia had a net gain of domestic migrants of 4,500. The biggest improvements in net migration numbers came in California, New York, and New Jersey, respectively.

And central cities continue to see improvement in population trends. Census recently reported that Philadelphia, long population loser, was once more gaining people. Have a look at this Brookings chart on trends in domestic migration. There are more like it here.

The data are very clear. Since the middle of the last decade, domestic migration numbers have steadily improved for old population centers on the coast and for urban cores within those centers. If these trends continue, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston will join Washington and San Francisco in experiencing net inflows of domestic migrants by the middle of the coming decade.