Flight from Urban Cores Accelerates: 2016 Census Metropolitan Area Estimates

The flight from the nation’s major metropolitan area core counties increased 60 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to just-released estimates from the US Census Bureau (Note). A total of 321,000 more residents left the core counties than moved in, up from 199,000 in 2015. This is ten times the decade’s smallest domestic migration loss of 32,000 for the same counties which occurred in 2012. 

Suburban counties continued to attract net domestic migrants, at a somewhat higher rate than in recent years and much higher than in the early part of the decade. The suburban counties gained 235,000 domestic migrants in 2016, compared to 224,000 in 2014 and more than double the low point of 113,000 in 2011 (Figure 1).

The 60 percent rise in net domestic migration out of the core counties converts to a 0.4 percent annual loss relative to last year’s population. This loss is more than one-half the annual growth rate of only 0.7 percent. This is a substantial deterioration from the net domestic migration loss in 2012 of 0. 04 percent, which was only 1/25th of the 1.1 percent growth rate for the core counties.

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