The fuzzy numbers on state-to-state moves

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What states did folks go to when moving out of Connecticut? What states did new Nutmeggers come from? Well, it turns out it’s hard to say.

The Census Bureau estimates about 178,247 people moved to or from Connecticut in its most recent 2014 American Community Survey data, but that big number comes with some big caveats.

A look at the estimates for each state shows margins of error that range from 19% (New York) to 230% (Michigan).

The numbers are fuzzy, and so is our map.

A soft focus on estimated moves in and out of the state
Taken with a very big grain of salt, here’s the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimated state-to-state migration in and out of Connecticut. Note the margin of errors are very high, in some cases larger than the estimate. For instance, 662 people might have moved to the Nutmeg State from Hawaii, or maybe no one did, because the margin of error is 773. The blur is a visual reminder that these data are fairly rough.
U.S. Census Bureau
Jake Kara / TrendCT.org

The state-to-state migration from the American Community Survey is based on current state of residence and state of residence a year earlier for a sample of the population. According to the Census Bureau, the 2014 ACS data for Connecticut is based on about 36,000 interviews.

Among the more clear findings, a lot of people moved between Connecticut and New York, Florida, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania. It starts to get pretty hazy after that.

The Census Bureau estimates that, by far, more people moved between New York and Connecticut than between any other state and Connecticut: Anywhere from 17,218 to 25,644 moved into Connecticut and anywhere from 11,827 to 17,471 went the opposite way.

But, even with the largest group and smallest margins of error, that’s still a pretty unclear picture.

It turns out, the IRS publishes some data of its own on migration flow, based on changes on tax returns. It’s perhaps more precise than the survey, but represents a subset of the population: Taxpayers.

The most recent data available is for 2012-13, with more recent data temporarily unavailable. The 2012-13 data corroborates the broad strokes take-away of the Census estimates: Nearby states, as well as Florida and California are among the top states for people moving to and from Connecticut.

In addition to a count of tax returns, considered an estimate of households, the IRS data include the filers’ adjust gross incomes.

IRS migration flow data 2012-13
The IRS tracks residence changes on tax returns, an indication of movement from state to state that may be more accurate the Census Bureau survey, but representative of a subset of the population: taxpayers. (AGI = adjusted gross income)
state Returns inflow Returns outflow AGI inflow ($) AGI outflow ($)
Alaska 69 71 3800000 3351000
Alabama 146 171 6562000 10790000
Arkansas 68 81 21815000 5661000
Arizona 421 662 35602000 57791000
California 1907 2786 175438000 338770000
Colorado 393 626 26432000 55449000
District Of Columbia 261 307 21195000 13556000
Delaware 119 177 6561000 11421000
Florida 4165 6906 341533000 1439485000
Georgia 819 1318 51438000 96337000
Hawaii 160 239 8962000 12639000
Iowa 101 104 6152000 6219000
Idaho 34 68 1349000 4588000
Illinois 696 805 74272000 75679000
Indiana 226 260 11687000 18891000
Kansas 126 133 10346000 8061000
Kentucky 112 192 5214000 14540000
Louisiana 141 191 8538000 15501000
Massachusetts 4095 5114 257543000 368497000
Maryland 641 886 57751000 79385000
Maine 438 739 21206000 49775000
Michigan 355 498 23272000 49716000
Minnesota 207 276 21840000 35309000
Missouri 245 242 20559000 27067000
Mississippi 71 84 3484000 4180000
Montana 39 48 1528000 2332000
North Carolina 1000 2057 47882000 169367000
North Dakota 25 40 1153000 2445000
Nebraska 59 81 3105000 5716000
New Hampshire 552 818 37315000 120805000
New Jersey 1975 1905 229694000 172850000
New Mexico 134 109 13677000 10193000
Nevada 187 225 16294000 13984000
New York 10882 8354 1390226000 835175000
Ohio 517 619 42314000 53158000
Oklahoma 107 139 6139000 7416000
Oregon 136 241 6087000 37449000
Pennsylvania 1404 1492 96031000 128675000
Rhode Island 1136 1363 57817000 112872000
South Carolina 536 1190 26199000 108688000
South Dakota 41 48 1635000 2580000
Tennessee 332 519 22642000 69593000
Texas 1186 1978 108249000 235487000
Utah 133 168 16366000 33227000
Virginia 1075 1402 77976000 103458000
Vermont 363 465 21932000 38264000
Washington 393 597 28356000 44725000
Wisconsin 222 210 17480000 17735000
West Virginia 51 68 2082000 3227000
Wyoming 44 41 4496000 3752000
Internal Revenue Service

What do you think?

  • jpriestly

    Per the IRS data, net outflow of incomes was $1.6 billion. Which sounds bad, as at 6% tax rate, that’s some $100 million in lost taxes in 2012. But in 2011 the state gained $2.2 billion, and picked up people. Interestingly, in 2012 we pulled $500 million in income from New York State, while losing $1.5 billion to Florida.

  • MetroHtfd Prog Pts

    You could also compare to the Atlas Van lines moving data – they publish
    this every year and it always gets some press. Curious how it compares
    to the other national sources:
    http://www.atlasvanlines.com/migration-patterns/

  • Ashley

    It’s something of a silly question, but: how do people who move out and then return get counted? We all know people who’ve moved away “for good” and then returned within months. Are they assigned to wherever they happened to be counted at the time of the census? Can someone be counted in two different places if the census is taken on the dates they’re in each?

    I’m sure this would rarely come up, but I’m still interested in how it would be reflected in the figures.