July 5, 2016 Brian Kelsey

Most people moving to Travis County are now coming from other states

The majority of people moving to Travis County are now coming from other states, according to new data from IRS.

An estimated 265,000 people moved to Travis County from other states in 2011-2014, third-highest among counties behind Maricopa (Phoenix) and Los Angeles. On its own, that doesn’t sound all that exciting, or surprising. During periods of strong economic growth big places tend to attract a lot of people, especially from other big places, and Austin is experiencing the best economy in a generation.

As others have pointed out, several Texas counties are among the leaders nationally in attracting new residents from other states. So why, then, does it “feel” different in Austin compared to other high-growth places? Why does it seem like there are so many more out-of-state transplants here fueling population growth? Confirmation bias in the form of staring at Florida or California license plates while sitting in traffic or getting outbid on a house from an “out-of-state buyer paying cash” may have something to do with it. But there is ample evidence in the recently released IRS data to suggest that perceptions reflect demographic reality.

  • Five Texas counties ranked among the top twenty counties nationally in number of movers from other states in 2011-2014: Travis (#3), Harris (#5), Dallas (#10), Tarrant (#14), and Bexar (#16). But of that group, out-of-state movers made up a clear majority (66%) of total domestic movers in only Travis County, i.e. 34% of people moving to Travis County from somewhere else in the US came from some other county in Texas. Bexar County (San Antonio) and Harris County (Houston) were about evenly split between in-state and out-of-state, but Dallas County (62% in-state) and Tarrant County (60% in-state) tipped strongly in the other direction. Same goes for Williamson, Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, and most other large, fast-growing suburban counties around the state.
  • Of the 24 counties on the receiving end of 100,000 or more out-of-state movers in 2011-2014, five stand out as outliers, with (1) out-of-state movers making up 60% or more of total movers into the county; and (2) out-of-state movers (summed 2011-14) representing a relatively large share (10% or more) of total residents:
    1. Travis County, Texas (Austin) – total out-of-state movers in 2011-14 were 23% of total residents, by far the greatest concentration among large counties with the most out-of-state movers and nearly all counties of any size with significant military presence, a key driver of out-of-state migration.
    2. El Paso County, Colorado (Colorado Springs) – military (Fort Carson, Peterson and Schriever AFB, Air Force Academy, NORAD), US Olympic Training Center.
    3. Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas) – well, Vegas.
    4. Honolulu County, Hawaii – this one shouldn’t need any explanation.
    5. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Charlotte) – among fastest growing places in US, a major finance center, located on the border of two states.
  • Out-of-state movers to Travis County outnumbered out-of-state movers to 24 states and Washington DC, and came within 1,000 movers, or 0.4%, of Oklahoma.

New migration data always makes a big splash, as politicians are quick to take credit (or deflect blame), and several moving companies have gotten into the game lately. For Austin, it’s yet another reminder that you are living in the best economy you’re likely to experience–that is, if you are able to keep up.

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