Metro migration: You ain’t from around here…or are you?
“Everyone is from somewhere else.”
That phrase, along with “Everything is so spread out,” has a way of cropping up in descriptions of Atlanta, whether from new arrivals or decades-long residents.
While it’s true that “somewhere else” is often another state, another part of the country or another hemisphere, most of the time it’s somewhere else in Georgia, probably just a county or two away. That’s the pattern that emerged in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s latest “Regional Snapshot” report on local migration, published in March.
ARC analyzed IRS data that tracks moves in and out of the commission’s 20-county planning area from 2000 through 2007 for the report.
Michael Carnathan, the ARC researcher who produced the report, said it took about ten days of “pretty intense crunching” of the IRS data, plus about three weeks of writing to wring a user-friendly presentation of the numbers out of the 500,000-row spreadsheet he started with.
Of the approximately 3,128,896 people who moved into one of the 20 Atlanta metro counties between 2000 and 2007, nearly 60 percent came from within Georgia, and more than 52 percent moved from one metro county to another.
Henry County came out on top in metro net migration (in-migration minus out-migration), gaining a net 34,518 residents from other metro counties. Forsyth County was close behind, with net migration of 32,122, followed by Paulding County with 26,469.
Fulton County’s out-migration to other metro counties exceeded its in-migration by 74,639 people while Dekalb lost 98,494 more residents to other counties than it gained from them. Clayton and Cobb also had a net loss of residents to other metro counties.
While the net losses in Fulton and Dekalb might look dire, those two counties also had the highest number of county-to-county moves between one another.
“Among the 10 core counties, the largest one-way flow of population occurred between Fulton and DeKalb counties – more than 108,000 people moved from Fulton to DeKalb between 2000 and 2007,” the report said. “However, more than 104,000 people moved from DeKalb into Fulton during the same period, so the net migration is essentially even between the two counties this decade.”
About 37 percent of people who moved to the Atlanta area arrived from another state, the ARC reported, and about 30 percent of those who moved out of the Atlanta area moved to another state.
The top “origin state” – where people moved here from – was New York, supplying more than 56,000 more new residents to the Atlanta metro area than it received from from it. The Atlanta area also had net migration gains versus Florida, California and New Jersey.
But those gaps were shrinking by 2007 and will probably be even smaller by the end of the decade, another product of the shaky economy.
For years, residents of more expensive states were drawn to the Atlanta area by abundant jobs and cheap real estate. “These folks would sell their houses in California for gobs and gobs of money, then buy a similar house in Georgia and be kind of sitting pretty,” Carnathan said.
But now that the only thing harder than finding a job is selling a house, that payoff has mostly disappeared for a lot of potential new residents.
Migration reports for the next few years could look very different from those for the beginning and middle of the decade. The latest report doesn’t reflect the recession’s effects, Carnathan said.
We’ll see if even a recession is enough to keep Atlanta’s notoriously mobile population in one place.