Connecticut migration: Where people go — and where they come from

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Connecticut is among the biggest losers when it comes to domestic migration.

In the last four years, Connecticut has lost a net of 76,000 people to domestic migration, according to recently released census estimates that look at population change from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2014. That’s 2.7 percent of the state’s population, fourth-highest among U.S. states in that time span. (Only Illinois, New York and New Jersey lost a higher percentage of their population to migration.) Meanwhile, the state gained a net of 70,000 residents from international migration. That’s a total net loss of 6,000 people in that timespan or 0.2 percent of its population, which is the 11th highest among U.S. states.

So, where are people going?

We dug through U.S. Census data and analyzed in- and out-migration to get a better picture of how the state’s population is changing.

Some things are expected in migration patterns, like a tendency to move to nearer destinations rather than those far away. Moves to and from New England states are frequent, as are moves to and from the New York region.

But other things aren’t so predictable.

They’re leaving for the Southeast

The most common destination for people migrating out of state: the ‘Southeast’ region — every state south of Maryland and east of Texas. Most of those people leave for Florida, but Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia also received a handful of Nutmeggers.

We used regions created by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The other region that makes a big mark is what the Bureau of Economic Analysis calls the “Mideast,” which consists of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia. That region is anchored by New York, to which the largest number of departing Connecticut residents go every year.

The New England region is next. Most of those leaving head for Massachusetts.

After that, there’s a big drop. The “Far West,” in particular California, is the next most popular destination. But there aren’t many residents who move to the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes or the Plains.

They’re coming from New York and New England

But people don’t just leave Connecticut; many also come, and from many of the same places. In fact, about 20,000 to 25,000 New Yorkers have been making their way to Connecticut each year — and New York often only gets back two-thirds of that number.

The Mideast region is, by far, the biggest source of migrants to Connecticut. Some years, the region sends twice the number of people to Connecticut that New England or the Southeast do.

Census data shows that it is largely a younger population that migrates into Connecticut, often with salaries less than $35,000 a year. But that follows a nationwide trend among people who are more likely to move to a different state.

Why do people move?

The Census works on analyzing why people move, and a report from last year showed that the reasons have shifted over time. More people cited family reasons in recent years than in 1999, but housing-related reasons have continuously topped the list.

The Census also looked at reasons for moving nationwide based on educational achievement. People with bachelor’s degrees were more likely to move for a job or to own a home, but people without a bachelor’s degree were more likely to move for family reasons (not including a change in marital status) or because they wanted cheaper housing.

Gallup released a poll last year asking people if they wanted to leave their current state. Half the people in Connecticut said they would leave if they could. Only Illinois had more people wanting to leave. About 16 percent of people in Connecticut said they planned to move with the next 12 months. (Edit: Data Haven’s Mark Abraham points out that the margin of error in this data means residents from about 25 state are equally likely to say they’ll move.) That survey was about a year ago, and historical data makes clear that 16 percent of people probably did not leave the state.

So why did those people say they wanted to leave? In Connecticut, the top reasons in the Gallup poll were for work or business-related reasons (21 percent), family/friends (13 percent), quality of life/change (12 percent), cost of living (12 percent) and school-related issues (10 percent). Few people cited taxes (6 percent) and weather/location (7 percent).

See a migration pattern? Want us to look at something else? Let us know in the comments.

What do you think?

  • zacharyjanowski

    Great post. I’d like to see the the regional patterns as segments of the total, so it would easy to visualize whether changes in destination/source changed the total or just the regional mix. For example, one place this is readily visible is outgoing in 2012. It appears that 4,000 fewer people left for the southeast and 4,000 more left for the far west.

    Other sources show that people leaving earn more than the people arriving, since the net outflow of income has been billions over the past couple decades. How Money Walks ( shows Connecticut lost $7.4 billion in income between 1992 and 2011. (Click Connecticut on the map for the details.)

    • alvinschang

      Wow, Fairfield County gained $2.02 billion from New York City. I knew it would be a large amount, but that’s huge.

      • zacharyjanowski

        Huge, indeed. Also, large are the amounts leaving Fairfield County for Florida. More than a fourth of that amount left for Palm Beach County. Nearly $1 billion to just the top three counties in Florida.

        • alvinschang

          I see that. I imagine there are quite a few people who move from NYC to Fairfield County to Palm Beach County. Perhaps for the next project, I should dig back further in the Census to see migration in previous decades.


    You could add me to the list of people who wish they could leave CT…

  • nana3015

    we are gaining the welfare seekers from ny and nj, and losing our productive workers and retirees. CT is dying, and is on life support. bye bye

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  • Every peer of mine (boomers) who left CT stated taxes and weather as the pimary reasons.