In a little more than a month, workers for the U.S. Census Bureau will start counting people nationwide for the agency’s decennial tally.
In New York and New Jersey, they are likely to find a shrinking population, as residents flee the metropolitan states and their high cost of living.
Recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates show that New York and New Jersey were among 10 states that lost population between June 2018 and July 2019. New York’s estimated decrease of 76,790 residents was the nation’s highest for the second consecutive year.
In recent years, New York and New Jersey have been losing residents to other parts of the union in higher numbers than all but two states, census records show. In addition, lower overall rates of international migration and birth are slowing population regeneration nationwide.
“Natural increase, or when the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, dropped below 1 million in 2019 for the first time in decades,” said Dr. Sandra Johnson, a demographer in the Population Division of the Census Bureau.
What’s going on?
New York and New Jersey are among four states that have seen the largest numbers of residents leaving for other states in the last decade. California and Illinois are the others, signaling a population shift from pricey, metropolitan locales to less expensive but still economically prosperous parts of the country such as Texas, Arizona, Florida and Nevada, said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.
The reasons to move: cost of living, climate and job opportunities, he said.
“Obviously if you look at people with high-tech degrees, they are still moving to Silicon Valley and places like that,” Frey said. “But in a broader sweep of things, middle-income, middle-class people with just a college degree trying to make their way are going to move to a part of the country where it’s more affordable and jobs might be created.”
In the last decade, New York has lost nearly 1.4 million people to domestic migration — a total that leads the nation. New Jersey comes after California and Illinois with a loss of more than 491,000, census records show.
Both kept up that pace from June 2018 to July 2019. New York was behind California with an estimated net domestic migration loss of 180,649, records show. New Jersey was fourth with a net loss of 48,946.
New York trends
E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank in Albany, said New Jersey’s numbers would likely be lower if not for New York. The Garden State has always been the discount dormitory for city workers, he said.
“It’s a lousy commute, but that’s the trade-off,” he said. “People from the city move to New Jersey because of the cost of living and the availability of a wide array of nice housing choices. They always have.”
Adriana Hernandez, a researcher with the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics, said spikes in New York state migration parallel significant life events: when people go to college, graduate from college and retire.
“Retirees typically head to warmer parts of the country — Florida,” Hernandez said. “Younger families living in New York City tend to head for the suburbs of New York state but also New Jersey and Connecticut.”
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Using Internal Revenue Service data from tax returns to track New York out-migrants, McMahon said Florida was the top destination for New York’s out-migrants between 2010-11 and 2017-18.
New Jersey was second, about 6 percentage points behind Florida, taking in 15.5% of New York’s domestic out-migrants, he found. It was also the top destination for out-migrants from New York City.
McMahon said the tax data shows lower-income migrants out of Manhattan are finding homes in Passaic, while larger income households are eyeing Morris County. The data reflects the anecdotal evidence, he said: young professionals seeking a condo in Hudson County, new families a starter home in Bergen County and established earners an estate in Morris County.
New Jersey trends
Some in New Jersey, on the other hand, are seeking to beat the traffic by moving back to the city or starting there in their first jobs out of college, McMahon said.
In 2017-18, the top destination for New Jersey out-migrants was New York, with tax filers from Bergen and Hudson counties targeting New York and Queens counties. IRS records show that 20% of New Jersey filers moving out of state that tax year went to New York.
Another 15% of New Jersey out-migrants in 2017-18 chose the less expensive neighboring state of Pennsylvania, likely using similar reasoning as New Yorkers relocating to New Jersey, McMahon said.
Census records show that the largest number of New York-Jersey City-Newark metro area residents moved to Philadelphia and its surroundings in 2013-2017. The total was roughly double that of residents headed to Boston, Los Angeles, Miami or Washington, D.C., records show.
The third most popular destination for New Jersey taxpayers in 2017-18 was Florida, which has been growing in popularity for both New York and New Jersey residents with wealth in recent years.
Between the 2011-12 and 2017-18 tax years, the income of tax filers from those states moving to Florida has doubled. McMahon said lower taxes, better weather and a growing population of retirement-age baby boomers are likely fueling that migration.
Other population declines are coming with age, Hernandez said. The gap between births and deaths is closing for the entire state of New York and all its economic development regions, she said.
“A lot of these changes are being driven by fewer live births, but in some regions we are starting to experience an increase in mortality,” Hernandez said.
Births are outweighing deaths in New York by about 71,000 per year as of 2017-18, down about 5,000 from 2015-16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New Jersey, births outnumber deaths by about 26,000 a year.
Hernandez said the movement toward more deaths than births is something that should continue for at least the next five to 10 years. Something that could shift much sooner is international migration, she said.
“Tell us who will win the 2020 presidential election, and which party will control Congress, and we’ll have a better idea what the future will bring as far as immigration from abroad,” Hernandez said.
Nationally, international migration has dropped significantly. Net population increases from international migration fell to 595,000 in 2018. The lowest total of the last decade, it was well below the peak of 1.05 million in 2016, census records show.
The losses from foreign migration in New York and New Jersey were not as pronounced. Still, those numbers are also falling.
The New York-Jersey City-Newark metro area added roughly 107,000 new naturalized citizens in 2018, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That total is down from 121,000 in 2016.
From 2010 to 2019, New York added 698,000 residents through foreign immigration. New Jersey added nearly 299,000. The totals were not nearly enough to overcome the number of domestic migrants leaving for other states.
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New York’s estimated decrease of 76,790 residents from June 2018 to July 2019 represented its fourth straight year experiencing population losses, according to the Census Bureau. The state’s population share has subsequently fallen from 6.28% in 2010 to less than 6% based on 2018 estimates, Hernandez said.
New Jersey’s numbers show a 3,835 decrease in total population in 2018-2019. It was the nation’s eighth-highest loss and followed a slight gain the previous year.
While the situation in the Garden State may result in federal officials shifting funds to growing states after the census, New York’s losses are likely to see it drop a representative in the U.S. House, Frey said.
When the changes are confirmed in 2022, 10 states could lose seats, including California, Illinois and New York, Frey said. Texas and Florida, states that have added more than 1.1 million domestic migrants since 2010, could conversely gain multiple seats, he added.
“I think the Northeast is going to continue to have either steady state or losing congressional seats just because of the broader population shifts,” Frey said.
In addition to determining the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives, the census is used as a template for the distribution of federal funds. Area lawmakers have been advocating for locals to participate to ensure each locality gets its fair share of those funds.
The federal government is spending more than $500 million on a public education and outreach campaign to boost census participation.
Invitations to respond to the census by mail email will arrive at homes between March 12 and 20, according to Census Bureau records.
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