Housing Bust Shatters State Migration Patterns

Analysis of the new Census Bureau annual estimates of state population changes for 2006-7 shows that the sinking housing market has yanked back high-flying states like Nevada and Arizona. An even bigger tug in growth occurred in Florida, another housing-boom driven state. With credit harder to get and the disappearance of housing deals, the allure of these states appears to have dimmed. 

Meanwhile, the up-scale states—California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts—are seeing fewer residents leave for a lower cost of living elsewhere. And those states benefiting from the previous flight to affordability—Nevada and Arizona in the west; Florida in the south; and Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the east—have shown slower migration gains or greater declines.

Even the states surrounding Washington, D.C., another hot market, have attracted fewer migrants. Potential home buyers in the outer suburbs of Virginia and Maryland face trouble getting credit and recent buyers in the District and inner suburbs are stuck because they cannot sell.

The D.C. region has, in short, become a microcosm of the nation’s reaction to the housing bust. Like in Nevada and Arizona, the market for the region’s suburban buyers is drying up due to the credit crunch, and construction and in-migration is stalling. But the District and inner suburbs are more like coastal California, where housing-rich residents are waiting to sell in order to move to opportunities elsewhere.

In sum, there appears to be a migration correction going on. We’re at the beginning of a leveling off of migration between unaffordable and affordable America. As with the broader economy, we don’t know how much longer it will last.

Migration Statistics (PDF) >>