Millennials And Baby Boomers Increasingly Head West

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Millennials and baby boomers moving to new, warmer locations have always moved South, but are now increasingly heading West, according to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

The number of Americans moving into the thirteen western states – a region that encompasses Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and all states to their west – grew from 21,000 in 2009 to 113,000 in 2017.

Millennials and baby boomers head to Washington and Oregon 

Much of this increase in western migration is attributable to millennials and baby boomers, according to the report.

Data from the IRS show that between 2012 and 2016, 26-34 year olds (a fixed age group in these data) flocked to the West, especially to Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, and, to a lesser extent, Montana, Idaho, and Nevada.

While members of the baby boom generation, represented in the 55-64 and 65 and over age groups in these data, still largely favored southern states, they also moved to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho as well as to Arizona and Utah.

Millennials And Baby Boomers Increasingly Head West
Millennials and baby boomers have always moved from the Midwest to the South, but now increasingly to the West.

California the exception where people are moving out

“As this analysis implies, while there is an overall increase in migration to the West, there are notable variations among western states. There were large net outflows of Americans (considering all ages together), for example, from California and Hawaii, but high net inflows to Washington and Arizona,” the report says.

Positive domestic migration net flows, however, practically guarantee population growth.

Washington and Arizona show growth

From 2016 to 2017, Washington saw a net gain of 64,500 domestic migrants, 26,000 immigrants, and a natural increase of 34,000 people, leading to a population increase of 124,500, an increase of 1.7 percent.

Similarly, Arizona gained 63,000 domestic migrants, 16,000 immigrants, and a natural increase of 28,000 people, leading to a population increase of 107,000, a growth of 1.5 percent.

“These patterns make it clear that immigration as well as natural population growth are particularly important factors in those states experiencing net domestic outmigration. How the consequent population changes break down by age carries significant implications for labor and housing markets,” the report says.