Crosstabs - A Closer Look at the Economics & Demographics of Colorado

Characteristics of Colorado Migrants

Oct 19, 2018 • Colorado State Demography Office

 

Characteristics of Colorado In-Migrants and Out-Migrants

The largest source of change in Colorado’s population is migration. Each year between 2011 and 2016 between 235,000 and 250,000 people moved into Colorado, and between 160,000 and 196,000 people moved out of Colorado. The defining characteristic of both in-migrants and out-migrants is their age, Colorado in-migrants and out-migrants are most likely to be between 20 and 29 years old. Other differences in household income and educational attainment follow from this central age difference. The full report here documents characteristics of in-migrants and out-migrants by comparing in-migrants to out-migrants, in-migrants to Colorado residents and return migrants (i.e., people born in Colorado returning after living elsewhere) to migrants born elsewhere.

Recent commentary about changes in Colorado’s population has focused on in-migration and out-migration separately and raised conflicting concerns. Focusing on in-migration leads to concerns that Colorado is growing too fast; leading to concerns that the state is unprepared for significant increases in its population caused by in-migration. On the other hand, focusing on out-migration leads to speculation that too many people are leaving Colorado, whether due to the cost of housing, a lack of well-paying jobs, or other reasons. However, one should not consider these types of migration in isolation. The State Demography Office analysis of recent migration patterns considers both in- and out-migration. The larger analysis concludes that while there are differences between in-migrants and out-migrants, as there are between in-migrants and Colorado residents, and return migrants and other in-migrants, the overall impacts of recent migration do not signal major changes in Colorado’s population.

Figure 1 shows the overall pattern of population change, natural increase, and migration from 1985 to 2017. Since 1990, the State Demography Office estimates of net migration have been positive, indicating that in-migration has been greater than out-migration. Between 2005 and 2015, the size of the net migration component has increased every year. Since 2010, the contribution of net migration to the change in Colorado’s population is greater than the contribution from natural increase (i.e., the difference between births and deaths). Data from the American Community Survey further supports this point, showing that in-migration has been essentially constant between 2011 and 2016, ranging between 230,000 and 250,000, while the number of people moving out of Colorado over the same period has been between 160,000 and 196,000.

Figure 1 Population Change, Natural Increase and Net Migration: 1985 to 2017

    

Where in-migrants moved from and out-migrants moved to

Figures 2 and 3 shows where in the United States in-migrants lived before 2016. In 2016, 12 percent of in-migrants relocated to Colorado from outside of the United States. Figure 2 shows the absolute number of domestic in-migrants by state. The states with the highest number of in-migrants come from the largest states, i.e., California, Texas, and Florida. Additionally, more than 10,000 in-migrants from Arizona and Illinois relocated to Colorado in 2016.

Figure 2 Number of Domestic In-Migrants by State, 2016

    

Figure 3 shows the in-migration rate per 1,000 persons. The state with the highest in-migration rate to Colorado is Wyoming, followed by other states in the Midwest and Mountain West. The Western states, California, Washington and Oregon, have relatively low rates of in-migration; lower than one person per 1,000 residents of these states moved to Colorado in 2016. The regions with the lowest rates of in-migration to Colorado are the states in the Northern Tier (New York to Michigan) and the South (notably, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama).

Figure 3 Location of Domestic In-Migrants per 1,000 Population, 2016

    

Figures 4 and 5 show similar counts and rates for out-migrants. People leaving Colorado in 2016 resettled in all states but primarily relocated to four states, Arizona, California, Texas, and Washington. Regarding the out-migration rate, the two states with the highest rates are California and Texas. These maps reinforce the idea that populations are moving in and out of Colorado to a similar extent.

Figure 4 Destination of Domestic Out-Migrants by State, 2016

    

Figure 5 Destination of Domestic Out-Migrants per 1,000 Population, 2016

    

Characteristics of Migrants

The key characteristic of all migrants, whether people are moving into Colorado or people moving out of Colorado, is their age. Colorado migrants are most likely to be between 20 and 29 years old. Other differences in household income and educational attainment follow from this central age difference.

The larger analysis documents characteristics of in-migrants and out-migrants by comparing in-migrants to out-migrants, in-migrants to Colorado residents and return migrants (i.e., people born in Colorado returning after living elsewhere) to migrants born elsewhere. Overall, the changes in the population due to migration are typical and expected, given the age of the migrating population. See the full report here.