Metropolitan Magnets for International and Domestic Migrants

October 1, 2003


An analysis of the flow of domestic and international migrants into and out of the nation’s 81 most populous metropolitan areas between 1995 and 2000 indicates that:

  • The nation’s largest metropolitan areas gained the greatest number of migrants from abroad in the late 1990s, but lost the most domestic migrants. These six “immigrant magnet metros”—the New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and Miami areas—gained 3 million migrants from abroad in the late 1990s, but experienced a net loss of 2.1 million residents to other parts of the U.S.
  • Residents leaving the nation’s immigrant magnet metropolitan areas were more racially and ethnically diverse than in previous decades. In the late 1990s, only 35 percent of net domestic out-migrants from the Los Angeles area were non-Hispanic whites, compared with 78 percent in the late 1980s. As in the 1980s, however, individuals with lower educational attainment left these metro areas at higher rates than individuals with college degrees.
  • “Domestic migrant magnets” in the Southeast and West attracted the largest numbers of migrants from other areas of the U.S. Rapid in-migration to several of these metro areas, including Phoenix, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, boosted population in each by more than 100,000 residents in the late 1990s alone.
  • While immigrants drove population growth in and around the core urban counties of metropolitan areas, domestic migrants fueled the fast growth occurring in outlying suburban counties. For example, the urban county containing Dallas, TX, gained enough immigrants between 1995 and 2000 to compensate for its net loss of 90,000 domestic migrants. Meanwhile, farther out in the same metropolitan area, Collin County, TX, grew nearly 20 percent thanks to domestic in-migration.