Florida is the most popular destination for people moving within the United States, with several other Southern and Western states topping the list.

About 190,894 more people moved to Florida than left it from 2000-04, followed by Arizona with 66,344, Nevada with 50,803, Georgia with 41,298, North Carolina with 39,137 and Texas with 36,566. Virginia was next with a net domestic migration of 20,535, and the Midwest was not represented in the top 10.

Meanwhile, New York lost 182,886 more residents than it gained through domestic migration from 2000-04, followed by California with a loss of 99,039, Illinois with a loss of 71,854, Massachusetts with a loss of 42,402, New Jersey with a loss of 32,147, and Ohio with a loss of 31,613.

While the condo boom and other urban revitalization efforts brought new waves of residents to dwell in urban centers in metro areas across the country, the Census report, “Domestic Net Migration in the United States: 2000 to 2004,” indicates that many large metros are still leaking population to burgeoning burbs.

The Northeast and Midwest had a net out-migration from 2000-04, which means more people within the United States moved out of the region than moved into the region in that time. Meanwhile, the South and West had a net in-migration during that period, which means that more people within the United States moved to those regions than left.

The report does not measure migration to and from other nations.

Those statistics follow a general historic trend. From 1990-2000, the average annual rate of out-migration in the Northeast was 6.1, compared with 4.6 from 2000-04; the rate of out-migration in the Midwest was 1.2 from 1990-2000 and 2.5 from 2000-04.

The Census Bureau calculates net domestic migration for a given period by dividing the total net domestic migration by the average population living in that area during the period and multiplying the result by 1,000.

In the South, net in-migration eased from a rate of 4.1 from 1990-2000 to 3.4 from 2000-04; the West had an in-migration rate of 0.1 from 1990-2000 and 0.8 from 2000-04.

Jim Gaines, a research economist for The Real Estate Center, a publicly funded research agency at Texas A&M University, said the Census report shows a continuing movement of domestic population from the North to the South, and there are several contributors to this trend.

“People now have greater mobility than they had 100 years ago, when maybe you felt more tied to where you were. It was difficult to make a move,” he said. Also, the industrial center of the nation was historically in the northern states. The veterans returning from World War II, the advent of air-conditioning, and the construction of the national highway system have paved the way for growth in the South, he said.

Rising home prices, too, have contributed to the population shift, Gaines added, as home prices in some markets have driven residents to other communities and states, and Southern states such as Texas have a lot of land available for development and often have fewer restraints to build than in some other parts of the country.

The Census report refers to “a distinctive pattern of high net in-migration” in counties surrounding large cities in Texas. “In the Dallas-Fort Worth (area), a solid band of high net in-migration counties entirely surrounds its two central counties,” the report notes, and there are similar trends in counties surrounding the Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington, D.C., metro areas.

Gaines said growth in Texas ties in to the ‘Easternization’ of California, which he identified as the movement of Californians to other states, including Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Growth is also powered from within the state, he said, as population growth has sustained new development at the fringe of metro areas.

Eighteen of the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan statistical areas had net out-migration from 2000-04, the Census Bureau reported, and the Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Chicago metro areas had average net out-migration of more than 60,000. In the Los Angeles metro area, the rate of loss actually improved from a nation-leading 15.3 in 1990-2000 among 25 top metro areas to 9.3 in 2000-04, which ranks fourth on the list.

The average annual rate of net out-migration grew from 5.5 in 1990-2000 to 14.7 in 2000-04 in the San Francisco metro area, the Census Bureau reported – from an average net loss of 21,587 residents per year in 1990-2000 to an average net loss of 60,984 residents per year from 2000-04.

The annual net out-migration rate grew from 4.8 to 9.5 in the Boston metro area; 11.1 to 11.4 in the New York metro; and from 6.7 to 6.8 in the Chicago metro area.

David Goldberg, communications director for Smart Growth America, a coalition that promotes neighborhood revitalization and opposes sprawl, said a demographic shift in cities may not be accurately reflected in migration numbers. For example, household size may be dropping while empty-nesters and singles move to the cities.

“There is an overall shift in demographics,” he said, adding, “There’s a whole lot more building than was going on before.”

Goldberg also said there is a worry that some older suburbs are starting to lose population through domestic migration as people move to the fringes of the suburbs to find affordable housing. Also, some local zoning practices favor the construction of large houses on large lots, which can also contribute to sprawl.

The Riverside metro area, known as California’s “Inland Empire” region, had the largest average annual rate of net in-migration among the 25 largest metro areas from 2000-04, growing from an annual rate of 6.4 in 1990-2000 to a rate of 23.

Nearly all of the 25 counties with the most net in-migration from 2000-04 are situated in the South or the West, the Census Bureau reported, with the exception of Ocean County, N.J., and Will County, Ill. And 13 of the 25 counties with the highest levels of net out-migration are in the South or the West, including seven in California and two in Texas.

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