Whether for economic reasons or to find a more suitable home, moving house is a common occurrence in America. And while most people who move tend to stay in the same area, metro-to-metro migration trends are creating noticeable population shifts within the country that can determine metro development. And when it comes to population growth from subway to subway, Phoenix is # 1.
• Phoenix ranked first as the most popular subway for immigration, gaining an average of 49,882 residents per year between 2015 and 2019 through exchanges with other subways.
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• Most of the new residents came from the three largest contributors: Los Angeles, Tucson, and Chicago.
• Most of the time, people from Phoenix went to Tucson, Flagstaff, and Prescott.
• Overall, the sun belt continues to be a popular travel destination for Americans, with places like Inland Empire, Dallas, and Austin making the top 10.
For example, our previous analysis of metro-to-metro migration showed that the emerging economic centers of the Sun Belt with favorable cost of living gain net populations through exchanges with other metropolitan areas. The US Census Bureau released the latest subway-to-subway migration data in September 2021.
Sun Belt metros continue to attract residents through metro-to-migration
Similar to our previous report on immigration, the sun belt has retained its status as a popular destination for Americans moving to a new metropolitan area. Granted, selected areas in the south and southwest have the perfect mix of conditions to attract new residents: warmer climates and more sunny days per year; Employment opportunities in high-performance industries for first-year students; and lower rents and cost of living than some higher density coastal areas. The last factor also means that these areas are potentially great for digital nomads and remote work – which will be a big draw in the post-pandemic world as many companies plan to change their work models.
# 1 – Phoenix
Phoenix maintained its title as the most popular subway for immigration with an average of 49,882 residents a year gained through exchanges with other subways. The Valley of the Sun absorbed residents from across the country, with the top three contributors being Los Angeles, Tucson, and Chicago.
Phoenix also took the top spot in our previous ranking with an annual net population increase of 42,869 between 2013 and 2017. This means that the metro’s population influx accelerated in the second half of the decade. As always, the causes are multiple, but the most common reasons the sprawling metro has grown is its relative affordability, the tech boom that is driving demand for office space in Phoenix, and the popularity of the subway as a retirement destination – which means the underground can attract US citizens of all ages from across the country.
# 2 – Inner Realm
Inland Empire also held up as the US metro with the second largest population intake due to the migration from subway to subway. In fact, it even accelerated its population growth by 5,000 people per year compared to the previous time frame. Neighboring Los Angeles supplied the metro with the greatest number of new residents: From LA alone, Inland Empire gained 45,000 net residents annually.
One of the greatest advantages of Inland Empire is the lower cost of living compared to other Golden State metros. In particular, the transport and warehouse management is a mainstay of the local economy. And given that warehousing and logistics-related jobs are some of the fastest growing in the country, Inland Empire has the potential to continue to be a magnet for subway to subway migration.
# 3 – Dallas-Fort Worth
Dallas-Fort Worth finished last on the podium with an average net increase of more than 39,000 residents per year between 2015 and 2019. As with the other two entries on the podium, the DFW’s population picking picked up for a decade towards the end of last year.
The subway also took off ahead of other cities in the state – including Houston, which ranked third in our previous article but was just outside the top 10 this year. Individuals moving to the area from major subways outside of the state – such as Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC – were the main contributor to the Metroplex’s population influx, as DFW moved to both Houston and Austin Net population is losing.
A multitude of aspects draw moving companies to the Lone Star State’s largest subway: The area offers economic factors such as a business climate that can accommodate both giants and startups, as well as employment opportunities in technology, healthcare, manufacturing and mining. But Dallas-Fort Worth is also one of the best subways for Generation Zers, with a young population and plenty of opportunities for higher education.
# 4 – Austin
Averaging 27,251 net residents annually from other subways, Austin ranked fourth on our list, largely due to victory in population exchanges with other Texan subways including Houston, DFW and San Antonio. However, the subway is one of the hottest places in the whole country for people looking to move. In fact, Austin’s population has a large proportion of millennials who are drawn to the availability of jobs as well as the lively atmosphere.
But Austin’s population is growing rapidly from other sources in addition to young professionals: According to US census data, the total population of the subway grew up to 33% between 2010 and 2020, making it the fastest growing among the 50 largest subways in the world US
# 5 – Las Vegas
Las Vegas gained 25,775 residents per year from other subways between 2015 and 2019 – nearly 6,000 more residents per year compared to our previous study, meaning the population influx accelerated significantly towards the end of the decade.
One of the main attractions of Vegas is that it’s a more affordable option for residents pulling out of the California subways, which are the main sources of subway-to-subway migration. However, due to the local economy, which now brings together both the traditional entertainment industry and other more diversified sectors, such as the demand for office space in Las Vegas, the subway also offers economic opportunities for businesses and workers.
# 6 – Tampa
Florida had three entries on our list – the most of any state – and the top spot among them was Tampa at # 6, with a little over 25,000 residents annually from other subways.
In addition to the Sunshine State’s status as a popular retirement destination, employment opportunities and economic factors are also driving the uptake of the population, particularly from New York City. This is where industries such as Professional and Business Services; Finance and technology are fueling employment in Tampa’s office space and attracting potential potential residents.
# 7 – Jacksonville
Next on the list was Jacksonville – a new entry with a net inflow of 20,388 residents per year from subway to subway migration. The combination of immigration to Jacksonville and new residents from other sources resulted in the subway reaching a population of 1.6 million in 2020, according to U.S. census data – a 19.3% increase from 1.34 million a year 2010.
Jacksonville benefits from a robust healthcare industry in addition to a diversified mix of other industries. In addition, a well-developed tourism industry and affordable cost of living contributed to the net influx of residents to Jax, with Miami being the main sources of population; Orlando, Florida; and New York City.
# 8 – Orlando
Orlando came just behind Jacksonville with 20,036 residents added annually by immigration, with many people coming from Miami and New York City.
With a similar business climate to Jacksonville, Orlando has plenty of attractions to offer in addition to great weather. And the subway’s diverse population grew significantly from other sources too, from 2.13 million in 2010 to 2.73 million in 2020 – an increase of 25.3% – making it America’s second fastest growing subway in the past ten years.
# 9 – Charlotte
On average, Charlotte gained 19,712 residents from other subways between 2015 and 2019, a slight decrease from the 21,143 timeframe of our previous study.
Even so, it is still one of the fastest growing subways in the country when other population sources are considered. In fact, Charlotte was the ninth fastest growing major subway in percentage over the past decade with a population growth of 18.6%. The subway is likely to continue to attract residents from both the Carolinas and New York City – the main source for residents moving in – especially given the economic landscape ready for remote work.
# 10 – Raleigh
Raleigh finished in the top 10, gaining an average of 19,166 residents per year between 2015 and 2019. The subway is popular for moving within North Carolina as well as for arrivals from other states.
Notably, previous CommercialCafe studies ranked the city as the first choice for both Generation Z and Millennials, which is reflected in its population influx. But in addition to these demographics, Raleigh is also gaining residents from other sources, as its population grew 25.1% between 2010 and 2020, reaching 1.41 million last year.
While the pandemic may have challenged earlier mobility trends at first, Americans are quickly picking up speed. And remote working and other economic shocks caused by COVID-19 have likely pushed Americans to the suburbs. However, the same Sun Belt economic hotspots that were successful in migrating from subways to subways before the pandemic are likely to maintain or even accelerate their momentum as people look for better affordability coupled with more quality jobs, that can work remote or hybrid working models.
- Annual net population growth is calculated by subtracting the number of residents lost to other subways between 2015 and 2019 from the number of residents gained from other subways between 2015 and 2019.
- We looked at migration between metropolitan statistical areas on the US mainland.
- The 2015-2019 metro-to-metro migration estimates were published by the US Census Bureau in September 2021.
- Non-internal migration as well as migration to or from locations that are not part of a metropolitan area were excluded.
- Population growth data from all sources between 2010 and 2020 were also provided by the US Census Bureau.
- For each of the top 10 metros, the top three sources for immigration to the metro and the top three destinations for immigration from the metro were highlighted.