Is Cary Still C-A-R-Y? Out-of-State Movers to Wake County, 1993-2018

Growing up in Raleigh, there was a joke about the nearby suburb of Cary standing for Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. As the son of an IBMer relocated from New York in the 1980s, I heard that joke a lot. And it wasn’t limited to Cary, or the North.

Anecdotally, “Northerners” were to blame for most of the changes that occurred in Wake County that people didn’t like, even if the objects of their ire had Florida plates.

I have written about migration in Nashville, Austin, and California, but I have neglected my hometown. And I missed a milestone last year: Wake County surpassed Mecklenburg County as the most populated county in the state, thanks in large part to migration from out of state.

So, here’s what we know about out-of-state transplants to Wake County based on my analysis of migration data from the IRS for 1993-2018:

  • Historically, Wake County has averaged about 28,000 new residents per year from other states, but that number has increased to nearly 35,000 in recent years.
  • For every 100 people who move to Wake County from another county in North Carolina, about 140 people move there from another state, on average.
  • The largest share of new residents in Wake County from out of state come from New York, but it’s only about 12% of the total. Florida is not far behind at ten percent.
  • The county sending the greatest number of people to Wake County is not in New York or Florida. It’s Fairfax County, Virginia.

Now, to be clear, some of those Floridians could be New Yorkers by way of the Sunshine State–retirees with buyer’s remorse, perhaps–as there is no way to track multiple moves for a given household in the IRS data.

But for now, New York is still in the lead as the top-ranking state for out-of-state migration to Wake County.

Source: IRS
Source: IRS

Note: Data is generated from tax records and therefore includes only households filing taxes and is not representative of the entire migrant population. Exemptions are used to estimate number of people.