New York lost a net 1.6 million residents to other states between 2000 and 2010, according to 2010 Census data. The domestic migration outflow, coupled with a slowdown in foreign immigration, ensured that New York’s share of the nation’s population continued to slide in the first decade of the 21st century.

But the migration trend is also nothing new.

This paper, first in a series using the latest census data to explore population trends in the Empire State, traces the ebb and flow of migration trends to and from New York in the past 50 years. To fill gaps in the historical statewide data, we rely on a combination of decennial census records, annual population estimates and state vital statistics dating back to 1960. Our findings:

  • Since 1960, New York has lost 7.3 million residents to the rest of the country. This was partially offset by an influx of 4.8 million foreign immigrants, resulting in a net decline of 2.5 million residents.
  • New York’s average annual domestic migration loss – the difference between people moving in from other states and out to other states — jumped from about 60,000 people in the 1960s to an all-time high of nearly 237,000 in the 1970s. The state’s domestic migration outflows have averaged between 130,000 and 160,000 a year since 1980.
  • For a second consecutive decade, New York’s net population loss due to domestic migration was the highest of any state as a percentage of population.
  • New York’s net migration loss – the sum of domestic and foreign migration – increased over the last decade to its highest level since the 1970s. Thirteen states had negative net migration between 2000 and 2010, and only three (Illinois, Louisiana and Michigan) lost a bigger share of their populations to migration than New York.

(2010 Census results may be challenged.  See Technical Note on bottom of page 4.)

nys-migration-table-5665316

Immigration to New York from foreign countries peaked at 1.2 million people in the 1990s, balancing out 91 percent of the loss due to the domestic migration of New Yorkers to other states. As a result, New York’s net migration loss in the 1990s was the lowest of any decade in the past 50 years – a total of just 109,000 people. But foreign immigration dropped by 25 percent to a total of just 895,150 in the past decade, reaching the lowest level since the 1960s. As a result, between 2000 and 2010, New York sustained its biggest net migration loss since the 1980s. New York’s foreign-born population, which had risen sharply in the 1980s through the 1990s, increased only slightly in the past decade. As of 2010, New York’s foreign-born population was about 21 percent of the total, second only to California’s 27 percent.

ny-migration-trends-5418631

As illustrated above, the 1970s was by far New York’s worst decade in the past 50 years in terms of domestic migration outflows. This was also the first (and so far only) decade on record in which the Empire State’s population actually declined.

ny-pop-9515465

The increase of 2 million people in the state’s total population since 1980, despite the continuing net outflow of residents to the rest of the country, can be attributed mainly to the “natural increase” of births over deaths. But since New York’s population has risen much more slowly than the national average, it has lost 10 congressional seats since 1980, and will lose two more based on 2010 census results.

components-of-migration-table-9277905

Between 2000 and 2010, as shown in the table on page 3, New York was one of 22 states (plus the District of Columbia) that lost more residents than they gained due to migration within the United States. The domestic migration losers were concentrated in the northeast and Midwest, while the biggest gains were experienced by states in the southeast and west. Exceptions to this pattern included Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, all of which gained residents from other states. New York’s loss of nearly 1.6 million residents to domestic migration was equivalent to 8.27 percent of its base population at the start of the period, higher than any state or the District of Columbia.

All 50 states registered population gains from foreign immigration between 2000 and 2010. New York ranked fourth in total foreign immigrants, and seventh in foreign immigration as a rate of base population. But combining the two measures, domestic migration and foreign immigration, only 13 states including New York were net migration losers, and New York’s 3.56 percent rate of net migration loss was the third highest. Other net migration losers were California, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island and Illinois. As shown below, New York City was the epicenter of migration in and out of New York State.

ny-county-components-table-6772258

Technical note:  The official 2010 Census results for New York City, which are incorporated in the statewide data cited in this report, were 200,000 below the Census Bureau’s July 2009 estimate.  The Census showed an unexpected increase of 82,000 vacant housing units in New York City, which city officials believe to be inaccurate.  As a result, the city may challenge the figures through the Census Bureau’s Count Question Resolution program. Any addition to the 2010 Census count for the city would have the effect of reducing the net migration total for New York State during the past decade.

Tags:

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

New Yorkers Keep Heading For Exits

New York continues to lead the nation when it comes to net outflow of residents to other states. Read More

Upstate, downstate NY flatlining in latest annual Census estimates

Population totals barely budged in New York State between 2016 and 2017, according to the latest annual U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Read More

Checklist for Change: 2018 Edition

Reforms that would reduce the state’s cost burdens and improve its climate for growth. Read More

NY out-migration tops 1 million

New York lost another 190,508 residents to other states, bringing the state's total domestic migration change since 2010 to a net loss of more than 1 million people. Read More

Population is dropping faster in upstate New York counties

Upstate New York's population began to decline at a faster rate between mid-2014 and 2015, according to updated Census Bureau estimates. Read More

New Yorkers keep heading for exits

New York's leading export remains people. Read More

Upstate New York population started to shrink in 2010-14

After a small gain during the previous decade, upstate New York’s population dropped slightly between 2010 and 2014, according to Census Bureau data. Read More

Outflow of New Yorkers rose in 2013-14

As the national economy improved between mid-2013 and 2014, the movement of New Yorkers to other states surged back to pre-recession levels. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!