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Thursday, August 21st, 2014

A Look At College Degree Migration


Net domestic migration of adults age 25+ with a bachelor’s degree or higher by metropolitan area. Source: 2007-2011 ACS with rollups and mapping via Telestrian

Many of you know I’ve got the best place to place migration data from the IRS in my Telestrian system. Well, the Census Bureau also releases migration data as part of its American Community Survey. This has a lot of limitations and quirks, but one thing it lets you do is track migration, both overall and place to place, by demographic characteristics such as age, sex, race, educational attainment, and income.

I’ve now added this data to Telestrian. As with the IRS data, I’ve aggregated it to the metro area level (not just county) so you can look at things like where you are getting college grads from and where you are sending them to. As with the IRS data, this is so painful to work with, I’ve seen next to nothing done with it. I’ve solved that problem for you, so be sure to check it out.

I’m just starting to explore this data myself, but it’s a gold mine of information. I just took a first quick look at net migration of people with college degrees over at New Geography.

You won’t be surprised to hear that fast-growing Austin, Texas is #1 in attracting migrants. Or that the 90s dreamland of Portland is #5. But not everything is exactly what you’d expect, so click over to see how your city fares.

16 Comments
Topics: Demographic Analysis, Talent Attraction

16 Responses to “A Look At College Degree Migration”

  1. Alon Levy says:

    Eyeballing the numbers per capita, it seems like New York has low rates of both college immigration and college emigration, but the immigration rate is even lower. This is the opposite of what I’d have expected, which is high gross migration.

  2. I’m not sure what the literature would have to say on the topic, but when I calculated in and out migration as rates per thousand population for regions off the IRS data, it looked like the bigger your region, the lower the migration rate. Keep in mind that’s domestic only. If I get a chance I’ll pull that data and take another look.

  3. I just did a quick look at out-migration rates 2011 IRS data for MSAs over 1M. New York is second lowest after Pittsburgh. Chicago 4th lowest and LA 14th (but possibly inflated due to the split of the greater LA region into two metro areas)

  4. Eric says:

    Does this account for people that graduate from college and move out? Some large cities like Boston, New York and Chicago might produce 50- to 75,000 grads per year.

  5. Chris Barnett says:

    2011 might be too close to the trough of the last recession to get a meaningful migration number. People were staying put; houses weren’t selling and no one was really moving then.

    Which is to say that I think overall numbers are affected by macroeconomic factors. I suspect Dallas, Houston, and OKC probably had more in-migration 2007-present because of the oil and natural gas boomlets that coincided with the general recession; NOLA because it was so depressed after Katrina.

    Other cities listed are traditional or newer retirement havens (Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, Front Range, Las Vegas, Florida and SoCal)and as Boomers retire there, that reflects a net in-migration of more-educated people.

    Whether any of this betrays patterns other than (1) where industries that require degrees are booming, and (2) where Boomers retire, is open to interpretation.

  6. The universe is adults 25+, so I’m not sure how this would affect college towns. Most new college grads are probably excluded.

  7. Chris Barnett says:

    Aaron, I’d also suggest (re recent grads) that if the main basis of these numbers is IRS data, undergraduates would most likely have been filing returns and/or would have been claimed as exemptions at “home” rather than in their college town.

    But there are certainly some financially independent recent grads, or older students (think GI Bill), or international students who are 25+ at graduation. And there will be a good number of such students leaving university metro areas to start careers elsewhere; it’s not inconceivable to me that Lafayette/West Lafayette Indiana would “lose” 1,000 25+ graduates in a year, or that Madison Wisconsin would “lose” 500.

  8. Tone says:

    Interesting, I was just looking at this. 2012 ACS says the City of Chicago had 623K+ people with Bachelor’s or higher. 2007 ACS says the City of Chicago had 525K+ people with Bachelor’s or higher. I guess this means the drain is from the suburbs.

  9. John Morris says:

    Using the full metro area does make it very hard to identify trends. Add in the other problems like not accurately capturing grads from local colleges & the result is probably not too useful.

  10. Tone says:

    On the opposite side in 2007 Chicago had 860K+ people with HS Diploma’s or less. In 2012, Chicago had 753K+ people in that category.

  11. George V. says:

    I like the quip about how painful the IRS data is to work with. Almost any data set released by the government is convoluted to a ridiculous degree, and the interfaces provided to access the information are absolutely byzantine. And what’s funniest/hurts the most is that the government probably pays a lot of money to whoever or whatever is responsible for the making the information publicly available.

  12. Net out-migration doesn’t necessarily imply total loss. The New York metro area lost nearly two million people to domestic migration during the 00s, but still gained population thanks to natural increase and international immigration.

    The data is available at the county level as well.

  13. Kendall A says:

    The 25 year old age cut-off should clear all but a meaningless amount of undergrads in college towns, but it means that you may be picking up graduate school noise, entering grads that are less than 25 won’t be counted as in-migrants, but will be counted when they leave after a couple of years as out-migrants. Many major cities like NY, LA, Chicago, Philly and Boston, all have prominent grad/professional school populations as part of that talent refinery Aaron refers to. So does Austin, of course, which makes its large net gain even more impressive to me. It’s clearly supplying enough employment opportunity to meet the demand of its college educated population with plenty to spare.

    The cities that show up on the bottom of the list that don’t have the same level of grad student churn like Detroit and Orlando have also been the hardest hit during the recession.

    Also, in terms of NYC and LA leading, I’m wondering if this measure picks up entertainment sector burnout. Thousands of young people move to these cities in hopes of stardom only to leave a few years later as their dreams are unmet and the metros prove unaffordable.

  14. Chris Barnett says:

    Kendall, I must disagree for two reasons.

    1. A significant number of young people joined the military in the past 13 years and served through one or two wars, and then went to college using the GI bill. These grads will almost all be over 25 when obtaining a first degree. I do not think this number would have been trivial, especially during the recession years. And these would have been already-independent taxpayers, so they would count as a no-degree in-migrant and a with-degree out-migrant.

    2. The percentage of people who complete a degree within 6 years of starting study is much lower than you might imagine. I think there is a non-trivial pool of over-25 “new grads” in the ordinary course of business.

  15. Rod Stevens says:

    The map shows that Boston, East San Francisco Bay, Corvallis, Austin, Madison and the county around UCLA are all exporters, even though these places all have good jobs. Their major challenge is giving English and philosophy majors the skills to find meaningful work locally.

  16. Brett says:

    I graduated from OSU and lived in Columbus for years. There was a distinct trend. Some people leave right after graduation. Others stay and start a career in Columbus only to leave after several years once they have experience. By the time I was in my 30’s I had seen so many friends move away I couldn’t take it anymore and left too.

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