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International and domestic migration in the US

In response to President Trump’s proposed immigration bill, Brookings recently analyzed census data from earlier this year to demonstrate the importance of immigration for growth within much of the United States. 

I’d like to share three tables from their analysis.

The first two look at international migration grains and domestic migration gains over the last 3 decades (the last decade isn’t quite a decade).

Here you can see that New York, Los Angeles, and Miami (all port cities) have dominated international migration to the US since 1990. But at the same time, international migration has become less geographically concentrated. From 1990-2000 the top 5 cities received almost half of all immigrants moving to the US. More recently, that number has dropped to 34%.

Domestic migration is different in that it’s a zero sum game. When one US city gains, another US city loses. Here there is a very clear migration trend toward cities in the southwest – arguably because of weather, job growth, cheaper housing, and probably a bunch of other factors.

If we look at actual international and domestic migration numbers over the last 6 years, the 12 largest metropolitan areas look like this:

The key takeaways here are that 8 of these cities are losing people to domestic migration and only 7 of these cities have a positive net migration number – meaning their population is actually growing.

What is clear is that the international migration column is a pretty important one if you believe that growth is valuable. 

If you’re Dallas, Houston or Atlanta, maybe you care a little less about that column. But for most of the other cities, international migration is either the only way you’re growing (look at Miami go) or keeping your population losses in check (see Philadelphia).

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