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Is the Southwest’s loss the Northeast’s gain?

UMass Donahue Institute research analyst Susan Strate was quoted in a USA Today article on declining migration to the Sun Belt states. The article, profiling recent IRS data analysis done by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute, points to economic factors that have influenced the rate and type of migration witnessed in the past five years.

According to the article, in 2006, at the peak of the most recent economic boom, Nevada gained a net of more than 40,000 people. By 2009 the state recorded a net loss of more than 4,000. With fewer Americans heeding the call to go west, more stayed put in Massachusetts and New York, two states that had been consistently losing residents.

"We would like to think it's a turning point," says Strate, "Part of the concern in the middle of the decade was the brain drain … people coming [to Massachusetts] to get education and leaving the state." Through heavy investment in high-tech and biotech industries, the state hopes to retain its population as the economy improves.

Failing to attract people from other states or having citizens relocate out of state has consequences at the federal level. In 2010, Massachusetts lost a Congressional seat due to a drop in its percentage of total population. Between 2000 and 2010, Massachusetts lost nearly 200,000 people, a 3.1% population decline, while the total population of the United States increased by 9.7%.  New York, Ohio and Illinois also lost seats, while Arizona, Nevada and Florida gained.

In the 1960s mobility rates were as high as 20% and continued to hover at 17-18% throughout the 70s and 80s. By 2010, they were only at 12.5%. Experts attribute the slowdown to an aging population less apt to relocate; uniform development resulting in a more homogenized, less exotic national landscape; and a lack of employment opportunities that once attracted people to other parts of the country.

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