Population Growth: Where Are People Moving?

February 01, 2021

Population migration in the U.S. is at an all-time low, but new research shows that those who are moving are heading to regions in the South and West.

New Freddie Mac research shows that U.S. domestic migration rate has declined steadily over the last 50 years, hitting an all-time low (9.8%) between 2018–19. And it's not just the older generations who are staying put. Even Millennials are moving less often than they used to.

Those who are moving are migrating to the South and West while emptying out of industrial cities in the North and Midwest. The outmigration from these regions, along with a decline in natural growth (that is, fewer births than deaths), have led to declines in population in the North and Midwest.

Population growth by region

According to the research, between 2017 and 2019 the population in the South and West grew seven times faster than in the Northeast and Midwest. The states seeing the greatest increase are Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Washington and Nevada.

In the South, the increase has been driven primarily by domestic migration. In the West, population growth is due primarily to natural increase (more births than deaths).

Top 10 fastest growing U.S. cities

These U.S. cities experienced the largest absolute growth in population between 2017 and 2019.

  1. Dallas, TX
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Houston, TX
  4. Atlanta, GA
  5. Austin, TX
  6. Seattle, WA
  7. Orlando, FL
  8. Tampa, FL
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Las Vegas, NV

Population change and housing prices

While population is the main driver of demand for housing across the United States, it is not the main driver of house prices. In markets where demand is growing but housing is in short supply, the result is a speculative boom in home prices. Conversely, in contracting markets, oversupply (mostly driven by a shrinking population) leads to a slowdown in appreciation. But an analysis of factors such as population, per capita income, and per capita housing stock suggests that its mostly per capita income – not population change – that is behind the increase in house prices.

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