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Domestic Migration and its Impact on Ohio

Americans tend to be more mobile than others in the industrialized world. According to a recent study*, the fraction of Americans who moved in 2005—roughly 12 percent—was about twice as high as the fraction that moved in most European countries outside of Northern Europe during the same time. While Americans’ annual mobility rates remain high by international standards, they appear to have trended down since at least 1980, though the reasons for this remain unclear.

What has changed less over this period is where Americans are going. About 2.5 percent of Americans move from one state to another in a given year, and for several decades, these flows have tended to transfer population from the Midwest and Northeast toward the South and West. More recent data, from 2005 to 2009, suggest that this general movement of population is continuing to take place.

Figure 1. U.S. Net Domestic Migration

What accounts for this ongoing trend? Some explanations emphasize economic factors, such as less onerous land and labor regulations in the South, likely to be favored by businesses. Other explanations emphasize more desirable weather, as well as proximity to natural amenities, like mountains or oceans, likely to be favored by households. Which of these explanations turns out to be closer to the truth has important implications for states that have seen net outmigration on average over the last few decades. The former explanation suggests that different policy choices can reverse the observed trend.

Ohio, like many Midwestern states, saw a net outmigration over the period from 2005 to 2009, taking in about 35,000 fewer individuals from other states than it transferred to them. It received individuals on net from the District of Columbia and 16 states which were largely concentrated in the northeast and upper Midwest, and it made net transfers to 33 states which were generally in the South and West.

Figure 2. Net Domestic Migration to/from Ohio

Ohio gained the most net migrants from Michigan (+3,043), New York (+1,821), and Illinois (+1,797); and lost the most net migrants to Florida (−7,954), North Carolina (−6,417), and Texas (−5,635).

Figure 3. Net Domestic Migration to/from Ohio

Net migration flows from Ohio to other states tended to be consistent with broader, national net migration flows.

Figure 4. Net Domestic Migration, United States and Ohio

Among these first three states, net inflows from Illinois and Michigan were weighted heavily toward those under 35. For New York, net inflows for individuals under 35 outpaced those of older individuals by about two-to-one. There were meaningful net inflows of individuals with advanced degrees, but these were outpaced by inflows of individuals without a college degree by at least three-to-one.

Migration Flows to and from Ohio by Age for Selected States

Michigan New York Illinois Florida North Carolina Texas
Age In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net
<18 3244 3,017 227 1,252 813 439 1,536 800 736 3,436 4,419 −983 1,462 2,662 −1,200 1,896 2,511 −615
18-24 5,144 4,024 1,120 2,671 2,544 127 3,227 2,755 472 2,173 3,455 −1,282 1,141 3,388 −2,247 1,182 2,987 −1,805
25-34 4,497 2,841 1,656 2,092 1,488 604 2,303 1,829 474 3,747 4,388 −641 1,851 3,118 −1,267 1,658 2,991 −1,333
35-44 1,569 1,753 −184 953 774 179 864 780 84 2,050 3,165 −1,115 918 1,499 −581 1,279 1,497 −218
45-54 1,304 1,047 257 684 472 212 528 552 −24 2,057 2,484 −427 305 718 −413 759 1,553 −794
55-64 812 597 215 431 343 88 328 397 −69 1,001 3,012 −2,011 259 630 −371 436 1,017 −581
>65 450 698 −248 414 242 172 199 75 124 2,140 3,635 −1,495 461 799 −338 273 562 −289
All 17,020 13,977 3,043 8,497 6,676 1,821 8,985 7,188 1,797 16,604 24,558 −7,954 6,397 12,814 −6,417 7,483 13,118 −5,635

Source: American Community Survey, 2005-2009.

Migration Flows to and from Ohio by Education for Selected States

Michigan New York Illinois Florida North Carolina Texas
Education In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net In Out Net
High school diploma or less 3,476 2,546 930 1,620 1,234 386 1,505 879 626 6,077 8,188 −2,111 1,649 2,046 −397 1,889 2,698 −809
Some college 1,927 1,508 419 1,050 509 541 613 472 141 2,311 3,332 −1,021 895 1,682 −787 948 1,211 −263
College degree 1,586 1,536 50 1,035 981 54 1,189 1,565 −376 1,729 3,197 −1,468 793 1,836 −1,043 783 2,204 −1,421
More than college degree 1,643 1,346 297 869 595 274 915 717 198 878 1,967 −1,089 457 1,200 −743 785 1,507 −722
All 8,632 6,936 1,696 4,574 3,319 1,255 4,222 3,633 589 10,995 16,684 −5,689 3,794 6,764 −2,970 4,405 7,620 −3,215

Note: Individuals 25 and over only.
Source: American Community Survey, 2005-2009.

Among the states to which Ohio lost migrants on net, there were losses across all age and educational attainment categories. In North Carolina and Texas, these losses were weighted toward younger individuals (those under 34) by at least two-to-one. For Florida, this ratio was almost two-to-one in favor of older individuals. As far as educational attainment, net outflows to Texas and North Carolina were weighted toward those with at least a college degree; however, for Florida, net outflows were weighted modestly toward those without a college degree.

*“Internal Migration in the United States,” by Raven Molloy, Christopher L. Smith, and Abigail Wozniak. 2011. Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 25, no. 3.

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