The happenings "inside" the Wisconsin State Treasury and across the street at the State Capitol

The Economy & You 27: When People Move and What It Means

Recently I was looking at some interesting data provided by a leading moving company, Atlas Van Lines.  The data tracks relocation patterns of families who move from one state to another.  Last year, there were over 80,000 relocations that occurred in the U.S. Atlas provides a map that gives a visual representation of what happened in 2011.

States in blue have more people coming into the state than leaving. As shown by the data, Southwestern and Mid-Atlantic states were the most popular destinations with the District of Columbia having the highest percentage of inbound moves. For those looking closely at the map, you will notice two things.  First, New Hampshire is colored both red (map) and blue (box).  This is a small mistake. New Hampshire is a net balanced (red) state with the amount of people leaving and coming into the state fairly equal.  Second, North Dakota is a net inbound state.  This is likely due to the development of the oil industry which has led to a large influx of workers.

Overall, there were 17 states that had more than 55% of total shipments moving out of the state and 9 states plus the District of Columbia had more than 55% of total shipments moving into the state.  The remaining 24 were labeled as balanced as both inbound and outbound shipment were less than 55%.

So what can we infer from the migration patterns?  There are many reasons why people move.  Some people move because of a new job, to be closer to family, or just because they wanted a bigger home. In all regions of the U.S., the need for a larger home or apartment was one of the top three reasons for relocating and to establish their own household was also list near the top.

Still as we look at the map and integrate other reports regarding job growth, we can see some similarities among states that are experiencing a net inbound migration and job prospects.  A recent Gallup poll listed Alaska, Maryland, Texas and North Dakota as good states to find a job in 2010. While I will not say that job growth is the leading factor in the inbound migration to these states, I do believe it is a factor of some importance.

The important thing to take away from all of this is that individual state migration patterns can be considered an indicator of a state’s economic health.  In 2011, Wisconsin was considered an outbound state where more shipments were moving out of the state.  Over the last 10 years, Wisconsin has been a balanced state for six years (2003, 2005-6, and 2008-10) and an outbound state for four years (2002, 2004, 2007, and 2011).   In all of those years, outbound shipments were greater than inbound shipment except for 2006 when shipment were equal.

When thinking about economic trends for our state, it is important to incorporate migration patterns as a factor to determine if Wisconsin is attractive not only to businesses but also attractive to the workers that those businesses will employ.  This is one such report that leaders should examine.


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