While internal migration has slowed greatly over the past forty years, a recent Gallup poll found that 21% of all Americans surveyed had moved sometime in the past five years, making the United States’ population one of the most inwardly mobile in the world.

Based on the age groups most likely to move in 2013 and the total U.S. population base in 2010, the average American will move 11.3 times during their lifetime, according to an estimate by FiveThirtyEight from U.S. Census Bureau formulas and data. Many of these movers are Millennials, who made up 43% of domestic migrants between 2007 and 2012.

In order to determine where Americans were moving, where they were moving away from, and why they were moving from one place to the next, ABODO has taken the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey’s domestic migration data for each of the 50 most populous Metro Statistical Areas and used it to determine the total number of people who moved into, or out of, each Metro Statistical Area. (Movement to or from a foreign country was not included.)

Cities like New York City and Chicago have the largest recorded out-migration volumes, given their relative size, but neither city lost more than 6% of its residents between 2014 and 2015. A higher number, 9.97%, of Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC residents left the area between 2014 and 2015, followed by 9.25% of Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO residents. New York City lost 4.6% of its residents to out-migration during this period, and Los Angeles lost 3.5%, by comparison.

But these results can be misleading without a look at the corresponding percentage of new residents moving in. Virginia Beach is also at the top of the 10 MSAs With The Most New Residents, with 10.53% of its population between 2014 and 2015 consisting of new residents. Metro Denver followed behind again, with new residents making up 9.44% of its population. Six other MSAs – Jacksonville, Nashville, Austin, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, and Richmond – also appear on both lists.

ABODO attributes Virginia Beach’s high population turnover to its high concentration of colleges and vacation homes, which both create a large yearly population change. As for Austin, Denver, and Atlanta, ABODO considers them “some of Millennials’ favorite cities,” from which they are nearly as likely to move in as they are to move out.

In order to get a better picture of the major metropolitan areas that are growing or shrinking, ABODO also extrapolated population changes for the 50 largest metro statistical areas from the U.S. Census’s net domestic migration data, or the number of out-migrants minus the number of new residents.

Chicago and New York City top The 10 MSAs with the greatest population loss due To net M\migration at -0.84% and -0.82%, respectively, between 2014 and 2015. This equals a loss of 168,799 New York City residents from an estimated population of more than 20 million.

On the opposite end, Austin experienced the highest percentage of population growth at 1.71%, followed by Tampa, Fla. at 1.41%, and Raleigh, N.C. at 1.32%.

"Our study shows that people are moving out of cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston faster than they're moving in,” says Sam Radbil, ABODO senior communications manager. “Experts have pointed at the rapidly growing cost of housing… Job opportunities are available and the economy is solid, but the housing costs are starting to become an extreme burden to residents and people hoping to move to major cities to start their next chapter in life."

On an expanded timeframe of 2012 to 2015, New York City now tops the list with a -2.20% population loss, and Chicago comes second at -2.06%. The demonstrated trends in population loss remain the same between these two periods, but the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA has experienced a greater relative population loss over a longer period of time, moving from No. 9 from 2014-2015 to No. 5 from 2012-2015. This is no surprise, given the multi-decade trend of population loss in the Detroit market.


The cities with the highest net population loss are also some of the country’s largest metro areas, but their relative size compared to smaller metropolitan areas softens the effect of this loss. While New York City’s new residents may compose a lower percentage of the metro population than Cleveland’s new residents, it takes many more inhabitants to make up a population percentage point in New York than it does in Cleveland.

As for where coastal out-migrants are going, ABODO points to rapidly-growing, mid-size MSAs as their likely targets, such as Denver, Austin, and Oklahoma City. These locations are increasingly offering lower rents, strong job opportunities, and a comfortable cost of living, which makes them attractive to coastal renters.