The Midwest Beat the South in Regional Domestic Migration in 2016

For years, if not decades, we’ve been hearing a familiar tale- that anyone and everyone is moving from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West. This trend began during and after the collapse of Northern manufacturing, and as higher cost of living began to make the lower-cost South more attractive in particular. However, a lot of the South’s growth over the years- indeed a majority- never had anything to do with region-to-region migration. Instead, it was due largely to natural growth (births vs. deaths) and international migration, particularly from Central America. What received all the attention, though, was the belief that people were packing up and moving to the South from places like Ohio and other struggling Northern states. While that may have been true for a while, that is increasingly looking like it is no longer the case.

The Midwest, especially, has been derided as the region no one wants to live in. Despite its growing population approaching 66 million people, the common refrain was that its colder winters, flailing economies and questionable demographic future meant that it was simply a region being left behind by the booming Southern states.

Recently, the US Census released estimates for 2015-2016 geographic mobility, and they tell a very different story altogether.

First, let’s look at the total domestic migration moving to the Midwest from other regions.
South to Midwest: +309,000
West to Midwest: +72,000
Northeast to Midwest: +61,000
Total to Midwest: +442,000

And then compare that to the total that the Midwest sends to other regions.
Midwest to South: -254,000
Midwest to West: -224,000
Midwest to Northeast: -34,000
Total from Midwest: -512,000

Net difference by region.
Midwest vs. South: +55,000
Midwest vs. West: -152,000
Midwest vs. Northeast: +27,000
Total Net: -70,000

So while the Midwest is seeing and overall net domestic migration loss, it is entirely to the Western states.

This could just be an off year, as almost all recent years showed losses to the South, but then again, maybe not. The South has been in a boom for several decades now, and in that time, the region still lags the other 3 in almost every quality of life metric used. All booms end eventually, and the South’s 2 biggest perceived advantages, low cost of living and business-friendly climate, have been gradually eroding over time. As Census surveys show, people don’t actually move for a change in weather, so it’s the economic factors that are going to make the biggest impacts long-term. The Midwest now has many cities and several states that are doing well economically, including Columbus, and perhaps they are becoming more attractive than they have in many years. Time will tell, but last year, the narrative of an unattractive Midwest vs. South was at least temporarily shelved.

Columbus Metro’s GDP vs. the Midwest and National Peers

**Originally posted on 7/22/2014, updated 9/20/2016.

Rank of Major Midwest Metros and Columbus National Peers by GDP, 2001, 2010 and 2015
In Millions
2001——————————————–2010————————————-2015
1. Chicago, IL: $416,444————-1. Chicago: $533,825————–1. Chicago: $640,656
2. Detroit, MI: $190,921———–2. Minneapolis: $199,606——-2. Minneapolis: $248,779
3. Minneapolis, MN: $148,192—–3. Detroit: $197,973—————–3. Detroit: $245,607
4. San Jose, CA: $125,037———4. San Jose: $163,836———–4. San Jose: $235,222
5. St. Louis, MO: $102,385———5. Portland: $141,233————5. Portland: $158,770
6. Pittsburgh, PA: $88,769———-6. St. Louis: $133,888———6. St. Louis: $155,077
7. Cleveland: $87,796————-7. Pittsburgh: $117,895———-7. Charlotte: $152,447
8. Portland, OR: $80,753———8. Charlotte: $114,500————8. Pittsburgh: $138,873
9. Cincinnati: $79,638————-9. Indianapolis: $111,084——-9. Indianapolis: $134,081
10. Kansas City, MO: $79,544—-10. Cleveland: $109,365—–10. Cleveland: $128,448
11. Charlotte, NC $78,675———11. Kansas City: $107,265—11. Cincinnati: $127,057
12. Indianapolis, IN: $78,009——-12. Cincinnati: $104,314—-12. Kansas City: $125,618
13. Columbus: $74,172————-13. Orlando: $101,307——–13. Columbus: $124,381
14. Sacramento, CA: $66,696—–14. Columbus: $96,475——14. Orlando: $121,329
15. Orlando, FL: $66,644———–15. Sacramento: $96,015—-15. Austin: $119,949
16. Milwaukee, WI: $65,033——–16. Austin: $87,473———-16. Sacramento: $118,822
17. Nashville, TN: $58,245———17. Milwaukee: $86,569—–17. Nashville: $113,680
18. Las Vegas, NV: $57,035——-18. Las Vegas: $85,020—–18. San Antonio: $108,879
19. Virginia Beach, VA: $54,040—-19. Nashville: $84,804—19. Las Vegas: $103,343
20. Austin, TX: $53,915——20. Virginia Beach: $82,685—–20. Milwaukee: $102,209
21. San Antonio, TX: $53,248—21. San Antonio: $81,722—21. Virginia Beach: $95,680
22. Providence, RI: $49,997——-22. Providence: $67,754—-22. Providence: $78,694
23. Grand Rapids, MI: $35,248—-23. Omaha: $47,711——-23. Omaha: $59,090
24. Omaha, NE: $32,044——–24. Grand Rapids: $41,221–24. Grand Rapids: $53,949
25. Dayton: $29,658————–25. Dayton: $34,226————25. Dayton: $39,206
26. Toledo: $22,216————–26. Akron: $28,628————–26. Akron: $34,419
27. Akron: $21,684—————27. Toledo: $27,158————-27. Toledo: $34,019
28. Youngstown: $15,314——28. Youngstown: $17,293——28. Youngstown: $21,417

Rank by Total Change in Millions 2001-2015
1. Chicago: +$224,212
2. San Jose: +$110,185
3. Minneapolis: +$100,587
4. Portland: +$78,017
5. Charlotte: +$73,772
6. Austin: +$66,034
7. Indianapolis: +$56,072
8. San Antonio: +$55,631
9. Nashville: +$55,435
10. Detroit: +$54,686
11. Orlando: +$54,685
12. St. Louis: +$52,692
13. Sacramento: +$52,126
14. Columbus: +$50,209
15. Pittsburgh: +$50,104
16. Cincinnati: +$47,419
17. Las Vegas: +$46,308
18. Kansas City: +$46,074
19. Virginia Beach: +$41,640
20. Cleveland: +$40,652
21. Milwaukee: +$37,176
22. Providence: +$28,697
23. Omaha: +$27,046
24. Grand Rapids: +$18,701
25. Akron: +$12,735
26. Toledo: +$11,803
27. Dayton: +$9,548
28. Youngstown: +$6,103

Rank by Total Change in Millions 2010-2015
1. Chicago: +$106,831
2. San Jose: +$71,386
3. Minneapolis: +$49,173
4. Detroit: +$47,634
5. Charlotte: +$37,947
6. Austin: +$32,476
7. Nashville: $28,876
8. Columbus: +$27,906
9. San Antonio: +$27,157
10. Indianapolis +$22,997
11. Sacramento: +$22,807
12. Cincinnati: +$22,743
13. St. Louis: +$21,189
14. Pittsburgh: +$20,978
15. Orlando: +$20,022
16. Cleveland: +$19,083
17. Kansas City: +$18,353
18. Las Vegas: +$18,323
19. Portland: +$17,537
20. Milwaukee: +$15,640
21. Virginia Beach: +$12,995
22. Grand Rapids: +$12,728
23. Omaha: +$11,379
24. Providence: +$10,940
25. Toledo: +$6,861
26. Akron: +$5,791
27. Dayton: +$4,980
28. Youngstown: +$4,124

Total Rank by % Change 2001-2015
1. Austin: +122.48%
2. San Antonio: +104.48%
3. Portland: +96.61%
4. Nashville: +95.18%
5. Charlotte: +93.77%
6. San Jose: +88.12%
7. Omaha: +84.40%
8. Orlando: +82.06%
9. Las Vegas: +81.19%
10. Sacramento: +78.15%
11. Virginia Beach: +77.05%
12. Indianapolis: +71.88%
13. Minneapolis: +67.88%
14. Columbus: +67.69%
15. Cincinnati: +59.54%
16. Akron: +58.73%
17. Kansas City: +57.92%
18. Providence: +57.40%
19. Milwaukee: +57.16%
20. Pittsburgh: +56.44%
21. Chicago: +53.84%
22. Toledo: +53.13%
23. Grand Rapids: +53.06%
24. St. Louis: +51.46%
25. Cleveland: +46.30%
26. Youngstown: +39.85%
27. Dayton: +32.19%
28. Detroit: +28.64%

Total Rank by % Change 2010-2015
1. San Jose: +43.57%
2. Austin: +37.13%
3. Nashville: +34.05%
4. San Antonio: +33.23%
5. Charlotte: +33.14%
6. Grand Rapids: +30.88%
7. Columbus: +28.93%
8. Toledo: +25.26%
9. Minneapolis: +24.64%
10. Detroit: +24.06%
11. Omaha: +23.85%
12. Youngstown: +23.85%
13. Sacramento: +23.75%
14. Cincinnati: +21.80%
15. Las Vegas: +21.55%
16. Indianapolis: +20.70%
17. Akron: +20.23%
18. Chicago: +20.01%
19. Orlando: +19.76%
20. Milwaukee: +18.07%
21. Pittsburgh: +17.79%
22. Cleveland: +17.45%
23. Kansas City: +17.11%
24. Providence: +16.15%
25. St. Louis: +15.83%
26. Virginia Beach: +15.72%
27. Dayton: +14.55%
28. Portland: +12.42%

Finally, let’s take a look at per-capita GDP and income.

Rank of Metros by Per-Capita GDP in Dollars, 2015
1. San Jose: $112,851
2. Minneapolis: $63,474
3. Portland: $62,229
4. Chicago: $59,688
5. Indianapolis: $59,479
6. Milwaukee: $58,219
7. Omaha: $57,334
8. Cleveland: $56,013
9. Nashville: $55,841
10. Charlotte: $55,610
11. Pittsburgh: $55,335
12. Austin: $55,323
13. Columbus: $55,005
14. Kansas City: $54,097
15. Cincinnati: $52,649
16. Detroit: $51,428
17. Virginia Beach: $49,606
18. Toledo: $49,428
19. St. Louis: $49,258
20. Sacramento: $46,697
21. Grand Rapids: $46,677
22. Orlando: $45,756
23. Akron: $44,246
24. Dayton: $43,748
25. Providence: $43,744
26. Las Vegas: $43,476
27. San Antonio: $42,169
28. Youngstown: $34,960

Total Growth 2001-2015 by Rank, in Dollars
1. San Jose: +$40,677
2. Portland: +$18,225
3. Pittsburgh: +$10,064
4. Austin: +$9,925
5. Toledo: +$7,414
6. Virginia Beach: +$7,256
7. Nashville: +$7,071
8. Cleveland: +$6,767
9. Milwaukee: +$6,744
10. Omaha: +$6,581
11. Akron: +$6,167
12. Minneapolis: +$5,900
13. Providence: +$5,560
14. Chicago: +4,663
15. San Antonio: +$4,652
16. Cincinnati: +$4,426
17. Youngstown: +$4,391
18. Sacramento: +$3,210
19. Columbus: +$3,182
20. Indianapolis: +$2,984
21. Grand Rapids: +$2,971
22. Charlotte: +$2,880
23. Kansas City: +$2,770
24. St. Louis: +$2,699
25. Detroit: +$2,011
26. Dayton: +$162
27. Orlando: -$1,630
28. Las Vegas: -$5,041

Total Per-Capita GDP Growth 2010-2015, in Dollars
1. San Jose: +$23,814
2. Toledo: +$6,242
3. Pittsburgh: +$6,172
4. Nashville: +$5,643
5. Detroit: +$5,459
6. Austin: +$5,307
7. Grand Rapids: +$5,158
8. Youngstown: +$4,987
9. San Antonio: +$4,878
10. Columbus: +$4,864
11. Minneapolis: +$4,644
12. Charlotte: +$4,578
13. Chicago: +$4,004
14. Cleveland: +$3,992
15. Cincinnati: +$3,986
16. Akron: +$3,774
17. Milwaukee: +$2,913
18. Omaha: +$2,863
19. Sacramento: +$2,680
20. Providence: +$1,902
21. St. Louis: +$1,884
22. Dayton: +$1,439
23. Kansas City: +$1,270
24. Indianapolis: +$1,186
25. Virginia Beach: +$998
26. Las Vegas: +$206
27. Portland: -$992
28. Orlando: -$1,345

What the numbers suggest is that Columbus was performing at a middle-mediocre level in the first half of the 2001-2015 period, and has generally been performing significantly better in the latter half. In Ohio, Columbus is poised to become Ohio’s largest metro economy over the next few years.

2014 Metro Area Population Estimates

Along with county estimates, metropolitan areas were also released.

Here is where Columbus stands along with all peers in the 1.5-2.5 million range, along with the Midwest’s largest.

Metro Area Population Ranking, Census 2010, July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014

2010                                             2013                                   2014
1. Chicago, IL: 9,461,105 ——–1. Chicago: 9,544,796———–1. Chicago, IL: 9,554,598
2. Detroit, MI: 4,296,250———-2. Detroit, MI: 4,295,394——-2. Detroit, MI: 4,296,611
3. Minneapolis, MN: 3,348,859–3. Minneapolis: 3,461,434—3. Minneapolis: 3,495,176
4. St. Louis, MO: 2,787,701——4. St. Louis: 2,801,587——-4. St. Louis, MO: 2,806,207
5. Pittsburgh, PA: 2,356,285—–5. Pittsburgh: 2,360,565—–5. Charlotte, NC: 2,380,314
6. Portland, OR: 2,226,009—–6. Charlotte, NC: 2,337,339–6. Pittsburgh, PA: 2,355,968
7. Charlotte, NC: 2,217,012—-7. Portland, OR: 2,314,747—7. Portland, OR: 2,348,247
8. Sacramento, CA: 2,149,127-8. San Antonio: 2,282,201—8. San Antonio: 2,328,652
9. San Antonio, TX: 2,142,508-9. Orlando, FL: 2,271,083—-9. Orlando, FL: 2,321,418
10. Orlando, FL: 2,134,411-10. Sacramento: 2,217,515-10. Sacramento, CA: 2,244,397
11. Cincinnati: 2,114,580—11. Cincinnati: 2,138,536——–11. Cincinnati: 2,149,449
12. Cleveland: 2,077,240—-12. Cleveland: 2,065,328—12. Kansas City, MO: 2,071,133
13. Kansas City: 2,009,342–13. Kansas City: 2,055,351–13. Las Vegas, NV: 2,069,681
14. Las Vegas: 1,951,269–14. Las Vegas, NV: 2,029,316—14. Cleveland: 2,063,598
15. Columbus: 1,901,974—-15. Columbus: 1,969,032——-15. Columbus: 1,994,536
16. Indianapolis, IN: 1,887,877–16. Indianapolis: 1,953,146–16. Indianapolis: 1,971,274
17. San Jose, CA: 1,836,911–17. San Jose, CA: 1,928,701–17. San Jose: 1,952,872
18. Austin, TX: 1,716,289—–18. Austin, TX: 1,885,803——18. Austin, TX: 1,943,299
19. Virginia Beach: 1,676,822–19. Nashville, TN: 1,758,577–19. Nashville: 1,792,649
20. Nashville: 1,670,890–20. Virginia Beach: 1,707,385–20. Virginia Beach: 1,716,624
21. Providence, RI: 1,600,852–21. Providence: 1,605,521–21. Providence: 1,609,367
22. Milwaukee, WI: 1,555,908–22. Milwaukee: 1,570,167—22. Milwaukee: 1,572,245
23. Grand Rapids: 988,938-23. Grand Rapids: 1,017,247-23. Grand Rapids: 1,027,703
24. Omaha, NE: 865,350—-24. Omaha, NE: 895,573——24. Omaha, NE: 904,421
25. Dayton: 799,232———-25. Dayton: 801,645————-25. Dayton: 800,836
26. Akron: 703,200———–26. Akron: 703,210—————26. Akron: 703,825
27. Wichita, KS: 630,919—-27. Wichita, KS: 638,259——27. Wichita, KS: 641,076
28. Toledo: 610,001———-28. Madison, WI: 627,466—–28. Madison, WI: 633,787
29. Madison, WI: 605,435–29. Toledo, OH: 608,430——29. Des Moines, IA: 611,549
30. Des Moines, IA: 569,633–30. Des Moines, IA: 600,086–30. Toledo, OH: 607,456
31. Youngstown: 565,773–31. Youngstown: 556,129—–31. Youngstown: 553,263

Total Births Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Chicago, IL: 516,295
Detroit, MI: 212,571
Minneapolis, MN: 192,866
Charlotte, NC: 125,143
Kansas City, MO: 117,872
Portland, OR: 117,482
Cincinnati: 117,072
Sacramento, CA: 116,893
Orlando, FL: 114,387
Columbus: 113,392
Indianapolis, IN: 113,127
Las Vegas, NV: 111,857
Austin, TX: 107,591
San Jose, CA: 105,447
Pittsburgh, PA: 100,888
Cleveland: 98,504
Virginia Beach, VA: 96,734
Nashville, TN: 96,440
Milwaukee, WI: 84,990
Providence, RI: 70,850
Grand Rapids, MI: 57,551
Omaha, NE: 55,860
Dayton: 40,683
Wichita, KS: 40,276
Des Moines, IA: 36,423
Akron: 32,228
Toledo: 32,024
Madison, WI: 31,280
Youngstown: 23,686

Total Deaths Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Chicago, IL: 289,440
Detroit, MI: 166,387
Pittsburgh, PA: 114,531
Minneapolis, MN: 90,773
Cleveland: 88,446
Cincinnati: 77,345
Charlotte, NC: 71,315
Kansas City, MO: 68,102
Sacramento, CA: 67,943
Portland, OR: 67,820
Orlando, FL: 65,979
Indianapolis, IN: 64,207
Columbus: 62,011
Providence, RI: 61,604
Las Vegas, NV: 60,256
Nashville, TN: 55,846
Virginia Beach, VA: 55,425
Milwaukee, WI: 55,123
San Jose, CA: 41,927
Austin, TX: 36,873
Dayton: 33,636
Grand Rapids, MI: 30,324
Youngstown: 29,196
Akron: 29,040
Omaha, NE: 26,829
Toledo: 24,226
Wichita, KS: 23,025
Des Moines, IA: 17,602
Madison, WI: 17,069

Total Natural Change Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Chicago, IL: 226,855
Minneapolis, MN: 102,093
Austin, TX: 70,718
San Jose, CA: 63,520
Charlotte, NC: 53,828
Las Vegas, NV: 51,601
Columbus: 51,381
Kansas City, MO: 49,770
Portland, OR: 49,662
Sacramento, CA: 48,950
Indianapolis, IN: 48,920
Orlando, FL: 48,708
Detroit, MI: 46,184
Virginia Beach, VA: 41,309
Nashville, TN: 40,594
Cincinnati: 39,727
Milwaukee, WI: 29,867
Omaha, NE: 29,031
Grand Rapids, MI: 27,227
Des Moines, IA: 18,821
Wichita, KS: 17,251
Madison, WI: 14,211
Cleveland: 10,058
Providence, RI: 9,246
Toledo: 7,798
Dayton: 7,047
Akron: 3,188
Youngstown: -5,510
Pittsburgh, PA: -13,643

Total Domestic Migration Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Austin, TX: 126,296
Charlotte, NC: 83,305
Orlando, FL: 72,735
Nashville, TN: 63,477
Portland, OR: 48,793
Las Vegas, NV: 35,289
Columbus: 20,083
Indianapolis, IN: 16,744
Des Moines, IA: 16,559
Sacramento, CA: 15,658
Madison, WI: 6,901
Grand Rapids, MI: 5,372
Pittsburgh, PA: 4,053
Omaha, NE: 2,869
Minneapolis, MN: -934
Kansas City, MO: -1,948
Akron: -6,490
Youngstown: -7,347
Dayton: -10,873
Wichita, KS: -11,148
Toledo: -13,337
San Jose, CA: -15,335
Cincinnati: -18,334
Providence, RI: -21,325
Milwaukee, WI: -22,597
Virginia Beach, VA: -24,374
Cleveland: -38,424
Detroit, MI: -89,649
Chicago, IL: -237,666

Total International Migration Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Chicago, IL: 108,320
San Jose, CA: 69,894
Orlando, FL: 63,215
Minneapolis, MN: 46,328
Detroit, MI: 44,614
Las Vegas, NV: 29,440
Sacramento, CA: 29,435
Austin, TX: 25,762
Charlotte, NC: 23,114
Virginia Beach, VA: 23,092
Portland, OR: 22,042
Columbus: 21,574
Providence, RI: 21,170
Indianapolis, IN: 17,623
Nashville, TN: 16,204
Cleveland: 16,010
Kansas City, MO: 14,569
Cincinnati: 14,567
Pittsburgh, PA: 12,887
Milwaukee, WI: 9,968
Omaha, NE: 7,897
Madison, WI: 6,706
Grand Rapids, MI: 6,232
Dayton: 6,200
Des Moines, IA: 6,159
Akron: 4,599
Wichita, KS: 4,006
Toledo: 2,971
Youngstown: 1,088

Total Migration Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Austin, TX: 152,058
Orlando, FL: 135,950
Charlotte, NC: 106,419
Nashville, TN: 79,681
Portland, OR: 70,835
Las Vegas, NV: 64,729
San Jose, CA: 54,559
Minneapolis, MN: 45,394
Sacramento, CA: 45,093
Columbus: 41,657
Indianapolis, IN: 34,367
Des Moines, IA: 22,718
Pittsburgh, PA: 16,940
Madison, WI: 13,607
Kansas City, MO: 12,621
Grand Rapids, MI: 11,604
Omaha, NE: 10,766
Providence, RI: -155
Virginia Beach, VA: -1,282
Akron: -1,891
Cincinnati: -3,767
Dayton: -4,673
Youngstown: -6,259
Wichita, KS: -7,142
Toledo: -10,366
Milwaukee, WI: -12,629
Cleveland: -22,414
Detroit, MI: -45,035
Chicago, IL: -129,346

Total Population Change Census 2010 to July 1, 2014
Austin, TX: 226,996
Orlando, FL: 187,012
Charlotte, NC: 163,066
Minneapolis, MN: 146,319
Portland, OR: 122,236
Nashville, TN: 121,749
Las Vegas, NV: 118,412
San Jose, CA: 115,931
Sacramento, CA: 95,254
Chicago, IL: 93,061
Columbus: 92,521
Indianapolis, IN: 83,192
Kansas City, MO: 61,795
Des Moines, IA: 41,916
Virginia Beach, VA: 39,807
Omaha, NE: 39,071
Grand Rapids, MI: 38,763
Cincinnati: 34,694
Madison, WI: 28,350
Milwaukee, WI: 16,291
Wichita, KS: 10,157
Providence, RI: 8,151
Dayton: 1,620
Akron: 618
Detroit, MI: 298
Pittsburgh, PA: -317
Toledo: -2,545
Youngstown: -12,541
Cleveland: -13,648

Out of the 31 peer and Midwest metros, Columbus had the 7th highest natural growth, the 10th highest migration rate and the 11th highest overall growth rate.

The Big Lie: The Midwest vs. The South

For 50 years now, the story has been how the South has been booming while the Midwest has languished in perpetual decline. Nearly every day, a new ranking or story comes about how great the South is in relation to its Northern neighbors, but the more I’ve looked at the numbers, the more I realize that the hype is built upon lies, half-truths and cherry-picking data.

The first data point we’re going to look at is Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, a measure of the total economic output, for the Midwest vs. the South.
Online Graphing
graph

So on this measure, the South is doing pretty well vs. the Midwest… or so it seems at first. The advantage the South has, however, is Texas. Without the behemoth state, the South has had growth on pace with the Midwest, though the recession did knock the Midwest down a bit from a fairly wide gap. Even so, the Midwest is ahead of the South without Texas, making it pretty clear that Texas is a HUGE reason for the South’s growth. All by itself, it nearly double’s the region’s GDP. The Midwest has no such massively dominant state. So does this mean that the South has Texas to thank for all the attention it gets? More light will be shed on this as we go.

Now let’s look at GDP growth by decade for the regions.
Online Graphing
Create a graph

Again, on the surface the South does well. The 2000s were especially kind to the South, while the Midwest declined some, likely due to the double recessions that occurred. However, during the 2010s so far, the Midwest has been growing a bit faster than the South (without Texas), something which hasn’t happened since the 1970s. Once more, Texas shows up as being the main contributor by FAR vs. all other Southern states combined.

Taking GDP further, what does it look like per-capita for the regions?
Online Graphing
graph and charts

First of all, the data only goes back to 1987, and the 1997 jump is because the data collection sources changed. In any case, the Midwest region is the leader here. The South has been stagnant for the last decade or so, while the Midwest, aside from during the recession, has seen a steady rise. Since the recession, the pace of per-capita GDP growth has accelerated, and the gap between the region and the South has widened. The Midwest has reached the US average, while the South, with or without Texas, is well below it and not catching up. What does this mean? Well, that despite relatively healthy GDP total growth in the South, it has simply not been fast enough to keep pace with either the national average or the Midwest. The Midwest has a much stronger economic output per its population than the South does, by almost $10,000 per person.

What about income?
Online Graphing
graph and charts

I know this chart is a bit hard to see, but it runs from 1930-2013. What it shows is that the Midwest has long had the highest per-capita income of the two regions. In fact, the gap between the two has grown steadily wider over years, and has accelerated in the last 5. The Midwest, while just below the national average now, is ahead of the South as a whole, Texas alone and the South without Texas.

To illustrate the income change over the 1930-2013 period further, let’s look at % growth by decade.
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This chart actually shows that the South generally performed much better by rate of growth from the 1970s and earlier. Since then, the rate of growth between the regions has been much closer, and in the 1990s and 2010s, the Midwest grew faster. What this seems to indicate is that the long term growth rate in income is gradually turning more strongly towards the Midwest after a long period where the South had faster growth. The Midwest has also seen faster growth than the national average since the 1980s, not exactly an indication of some kind of sustained decline.

So far, the picture is not quite as one-sided as we’ve been told.

What’s more interesting, especially from a total GDP standpoint, is that the Midwest is smaller than the South as a whole. To be more equal, you’d have to include the Northeastern states. This throws the entire dynamic out the window. In fact, the North combined is still the largest regional economy of the 3 (North, South, West) by about 13 percentage points.

Report on Domestic Migration by State

Over the last few decades, much attention has been given to the fact that domestic migration has heavily favored the “Sun Belt”, states made up of the Southeast west to the West Coast. While Northern states weren’t all losing people, the region as a whole sent far more people to the Sun Belt than they retained. This helped fuel the respective Southern boom, and media story after media story over the years have made sweeping predictions of this growing powerhouse region, often centered around the idea that the boom had no foreseeable end. The irony with these predictions is that they ignored history. For more than 2 centuries, the North was where people moved. Its states and cities saw massive influxes of population. As recently as the decade of the 1950s, Ohio grew by nearly 2 million alone. Economic conditions in decline, job losses, particularly in the manufacturing industry, increases in the cost of living and other factors ended the boom and helped to bring about the rise of the South, so to speak. Since at least the 1960s, the story has been about the Sun Belt/West.

The US Census does state migration estimates every year, and there are some interesting things going on in the data that may indicate that the boom in the South is faltering while the North’s fortunes are not looking as grim as they once did.

First, what are the regions?
South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
North: Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.
West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Let’s next look at the states by rank of domestic migration in 2005, the earliest available year for the state data, and compared it to 2012, the most recent year available. This period covers the period just before and just after the Great Recession.

Domestic Migration Rank, 2005 vs. 2012, by Total
2005___________________________________2012
1. Florida: +188,035__________________________1. Florida: +108,823
2. Arizona: +131,501_________________________2. Texas: +105,565
3. Texas: +124,522__________________________3. Colorado: +43,530
4. Georgia: +88,250__________________________4. Washington: +37,187
5. North Carolina: +51,575_____________________5. North Carolina: +34,846
6. Tennessee: +43,901________________________6. South Carolina: +34,149
7. Oregon: +43,360___________________________7. Nevada: +25,835
8. Washington: +38,093________________________8. Arizona: +25,615
9. South Carolina: +32,312______________________9. Georgia: +25,204
10. Arkansas: +30,765_________________________10. Missouri: +20,176
11. Nevada: +26,839__________________________11. North Dakota: +14,254
12. Idaho: +20,308____________________________12. Tennessee: +13,255
13. Colorado: +16,963_________________________13. Virginia: +12,110
14. Oklahoma: +16,372_________________________14. Arkansas: +11,981
15. Alabama: +14,501__________________________15. Oregon: +10,742
16. New Mexico: +13,714_______________________16. New Hampshire: +10,711
17. Delaware: +12,561_________________________17. Delaware: +10,610
18. Virginia: +11,121___________________________18. Kentucky: +8,899
19. Kentucky: +7,451___________________________19. Mississippi: +6,569
20. Missouri: +6,338____________________________20. Oklahoma: +6,402
21. Iowa: +5,406_______________________________21. Utah: +5,717
22. Montana: +4,185____________________________22. Vermont: +4,375
23. Pennsylvania: +2,868________________________23. South Dakota: +3,578
24. Maine: +2,447______________________________24. Montana: +3,410
25. Hawaii: +2,388______________________________25. Idaho: +3,400
26. West Virginia: +998__________________________26. Wisconsin: +1,468
27. New Hampshire: +497________________________27. Iowa: +275
28. South Dakota: +360__________________________28. Ohio: -105
29. Wyoming: -366______________________________29. West Virginia: -300
30. Minnesota: -1,154____________________________30. Wyoming: -639
31. Kansas: -2,244______________________________31. Maryland: -2,821
32. North Dakota: -2,553__________________________32. Rhode Island: -2,948
33. Wisconsin: -2,756____________________________33. Louisiana: -4,741
34. Vermont: -3,580_____________________________34. Kansas: -4,850
35. Nebraska: -5,128____________________________35. Nebraska: -5,174
36. Utah: -5,639________________________________36. Hawaii: -6,364
37. Connecticut: -6,536__________________________37. Connecticut: -6,712
38. Mississippi: -7,120___________________________38. Washington D.C.: -7,470
39. Indiana: -9,222______________________________39. New Mexico: -9,228
40. Maryland: -9,718____________________________40. Alabama: -9,431
41. Washington D.C.: -12,872_____________________41. Indiana: -10,460
42. Rhode Island: -15,037________________________42. Maine: -11,025
43. New Jersey: -22,051_________________________43. Minnesota: -14,904
44. Alaska: -23,567_____________________________44. Massachusetts: -15,579
45. Ohio: -40,841______________________________45. Pennsylvania: -21,656
46. Massachusetts: -52,726______________________46. Michigan: -41,761
47. Michigan: -53,852___________________________47. Alaska: -49,250
48. Illinois: -55,932_____________________________48. Illinois: -68,356
49. Louisiana: -99,684__________________________49. California: -73,345
50. New York: -239,848_________________________50. New Jersey: -89,666
51. California: -266,243_________________________51. New York: -135,149

So in 2005, the breakdown was as follows:
12 of 14 Southern states had positive domestic migration. The only 2 that did not, Louisiana and Mississippi, were heavily influenced in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, which caused large numbers of displaced residents to leave the states entirely.
7 of 24 Northern states has positive domestic migration. The 7 states were mixed between the Midwest and the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic. Just one Great Lakes State had positive domestic migration in 2005.
9 of 13 Western states had positive domestic migration. Only California and a few Mountain West states had negative numbers.

The 2005 numbers show the overall domestic migration picture as it had been for at least the last few decades, if not much longer. The South and West were the dominant net gainers of domestic migration, while most of the North sent people to those regions.

In 2012, the breakdown was as follows:
11 of 14 Southern states had positive domestic migration. Even with Katrina-hit state Mississippi having net gains in 2012, the overall number of states with positive gains declined.
8 of 24 Northern states had positive domestic migration, a slight improvement over 2005.
8 of 13 Western states had positive domestic migration, a slight decline over 2005.

But the breakdowns don’t tell us the whole story. When trying to compare the two years, trends are very important, and the trends are far more revealing.

Total Change 2005-2012 By Rank
1. California: +192,898
2. New York: +104,699
3. Louisiana: +94,943
4. Ohio: +40,736
5. Massachusetts: +37,147
6. Colorado: +26,567
7. North Dakota: +16,807
8. Missouri: +13,838
9. Mississippi: +13,689
10. Michigan: +12,091
11. Rhode Island: +12,089
12. Utah: +11,356
13. New Hampshire: +10,214
14. Vermont: +7,955
15. Maryland: +6,897
16.Washington, D.C.: +5,402
17. Wisconsin: +4,224
18. South Dakota: +3,218
19. South Carolina: +1,837
20. Kentucky: +1,448
21. Virginia: +989
22. Nebraska: -46
23. Connecticut: -176
24. Wyoming: -273
25. Montana: -775
26. Washington: -906
27. Nevada: -1,004
28. Indiana: -1,238
29. West Virginia: -1,298
30. Delaware: -1,951
31. Kansas: -2,606
32. Iowa: -5,131
33. Hawaii: -8,752
34. Oklahoma: -9,970
35. Illinois: -12,424
36. Maine: -13,472
37. Minnesota: -13,750
38. North Carolina: -16,729
39. Idaho: -16,908
40. Arkansas: -18,784
41. Texas: -18,957
42. New Mexico: -22,942
43. Alabama: -23,932
44. Pennsylvania: -24,524
45. Alaska: -25,683
46. Tennessee: -30,646
47. Oregon: -32,618
48. Georgia: -63,046
49. New Jersey: -67,615
50. Florida: -79,212
51. Arizona: -105,886

5 of 14 Southern states improved their domestic migration rates 2005-2012.
13 of 24 Northern states improved their domestic migration rates 2005-2012.
3 of 13 Western states improved their domestic migration rates 2005-2012.

Ohio had the 4th best improvement over the period, a huge change. But some might ask, is it really a change when the rates may still be positive or negative like they were before? Well, yes and no. 7 years is not that long, and we’re talking about decades-long patterns here. Those won’t change like flipping a switch. It will take time. The point is more that for many states that have faced negative numbers for a long time, there is positive momentum now that they did not have before. Another question some may ask, however, is if the recession during the period reduced mobility. In some cases, I’m sure that it did, but if so, that reduction seems to have been centered on the South. A reduction in mobility would only indicate that migration rates would reduce to levels around 0, neither particularly positive nor negative. That reduction would NOT necessarily support switches from positive to negative or increases in negative or positive rates that already exist. Meaning that reduced mobility would mean that positive would become less positive as fewer people moved in, and negative would become less negative as fewer people left. On a state and regional basis, there is a wide range of results that do not support that geographic mobility alone is the culprit, or even a primary factor.

In Part 2, we’ll look more closely at how regions and individual states are performing relative to each other.