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Coming or Going? NYC Migration Ins and Outs


Grand Central Terminal

Each year, thousands of people arrive in New York City and settle here, and thousands of people leave.

By many metrics, New York City’s economy is as healthy as ever. There are more jobs in the city than at any time in history, and the unemployment rate has fallen to historically low levels. Yet this success doesn’t mean that the city will keep all of its residents. So, are more people coming or going?

New York City has a negative net domestic migration rate. Translation: more people leave one of the city’s five counties than move in. What’s more, that trend has accelerated in recent years, from a rate of -0.2% in 2010 to -1.8% in 2016. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the city is still growing (up 4.4% from 2010 to 2016), due to international migration and natural increase (births vs. deaths).

Pushing out, Pulling In
The study of migration deals heavily with the ideas of “push” and “pull” factors. Push = out, pull = in. Affordability, for example, can act as both a push and pull factor. Affordability has two main components: earnings and cost of living. People may move to the city for the potential to make more money, but also may leave a city if the cost of living gets too high. Migration data can provide a clue as to where the equilibrium lies. Affordable areas with strong economies in the South and West have been growing rapidly, whereas affordability is a key concern for New York City. One other oft-cited push/pull factor is weather; the past few decades have seen significant migration from the Northeast and Midwest to the warmer climates of the South and West. Of the 10 states with the largest net domestic inflows[1] from 2015 to 2016, all were in the South or West. Of the 10 states with the largest net domestic outflows[2], all but one (California) were in the Northeast or Midwest.

Where New Yorkers Go
According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2011–2015, the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area’s largest net outflow to another metro area is to Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL. Each year, about 13,200 more people leave the New York City metro area and settle in the Miami metro area than vice versa. Of the NYC area’s top 10 net outflows, three of the receiving metro areas are in Florida (#1 Miami, #3 Orlando, and #6 Tampa). There are also large outflows to other Southern cities with strong economic growth (#7 Charlotte and #8 Atlanta) and well-established big cities farther up the East Coast (#2 Philadelphia and #4 Washington, D.C.). There are also large net outflows to a few smaller metro areas closer to NYC (#5 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT, #9 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, and #10 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA).

Welcome, Alaskans
The NYC metro area’s role in distributing people across the rest of the country is evidenced by the fact that there is only one metro area in the United States with an annual average net outflow to the NYC metro area of over 3,000: Anchorage, AK. Other metro areas send more people to NYC than Anchorage does, but NYC sends a comparable or greater amount of migrants in the other direction. About 18,000 people move to the NYC metro area from the Philadelphia metro area annually, while about 28,000 move in the other direction. Only slightly more than 100 people move from NYC to Anchorage each year, making the relationship between the two metro areas an unequal one. 

To the ‘Burbs
Looking at county-to-county migration allows us to see the dynamics within metro areas. Though large metropolitan areas are growing faster than mid-size and small metros, the growth within large metro areas is being driven by suburban growth. Within the New York City metro area, far more people move from one of the city’s five counties (Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Richmond) and settle in the suburbs than move in the other direction. Five of the top 10 aggregate net outflows from the city’s five counties are to other counties within the metro area (#1 Westchester, #2 Nassau, #3 Hudson, NJ, #6 Essex, NJ, and #7 Fairfield, CT). The top 10 destination counties are reflected in Table 1. The county-to-county data shows that very few counties in the United States have annual net outflows to the five New York City counties.

Who’s Moving In?
Looking into domestic migration by age, NYC has a domestic net inflow of people in their 20s[3]; many in that age group move to the city from suburban counties like Nassau County and Bergen (NJ), as well as other East Coast cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C.. Those annual net inflows of people 20-29 (+2600) are dwarfed by the net outflows of people 1-19 (-31,900) and 30-39 (-28,200). About 27% of this net exodus of people in those two age groups is accounted for by five (largely suburban) counties: Westchester, Nassau, Fairfield (CT), Essex (NJ), and Hudson (NJ). Most people 1-19 aren’t making the decision to move; that decision is probably made by their parents. But the decisions of 30-39 year olds can be seen as a proxy for the decisions of parents.

While New York City is exceptional in many ways, migration data makes it clear that many nationwide trends apply to the city as well. New Yorkers are moving to warmer areas, and to more affordable areas. Large numbers of people move to the suburbs every year, especially those aged 1-19 and 30-39. The net inflow of people 20-29 suggests that there are domestic migrants for whom the pull factors outweigh the push factors. After focusing on NYC’s net domestic outflows, it’s important to remember that while some people are leaving, the city isn’t shrinking; it’s in a perpetual state of rebirth.

Net Annual Migration from NYC by County

StateCountyNet Annual Migration
from NYC
New YorkWestchester6,713 
New YorkNassau4,901 
New JerseyHudson3,641 
CaliforniaLos Angeles2,949 
New JerseyEssex2,599 
FloridaPalm Beach1,924 
New YorkBroome1,552 

[1] “Inflows” refers to people who lived in a different state one year prior, and who live in the state in question at the time of the survey.

[2] “Outflows” refers to people who lived in the state in question one year prior, and who live in a different state at the time of the survey.

[3] Defined as people aged 20–29


FiveThirtyEight (

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, County-to-County Migration Flows 2011-2015

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Metro-to-Metro Migration Flows 2011-2015

William H Frey analysis of US Census Bureau Population Estimates (

Economic Data



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