DC: The East Coast's Most Migratory City

Kate Rabinowitz // August 2, 2015

When I moved to DC about five years ago, I did so with an onslaught of millennials in search of jobs and housing that was not their parents (along with a few others who may have had loftier aims). People would often ask 'where are you from?' because it was obviously not DC, and 'when did you move here?' because, inevitably, you just did.

And five years later these questions haven’t actually changed much. Of course, there are a number of people that have lived here for years, but DC is never short of transplants starting anew. The constant influx is one of the things I like about DC; it's a very migratory population. But, really, how migratory?

How Migratory are Major U.S. Cities?

Circle size indicates migration score based on migration rate and migration distance traveled.
Click on a circle for more information

Source: Census American Community Survey (2008-2012 mobility estimates).

In fact, DC is the most migratory city east of the Mississippi and rounds out the top five for most migratory cities:

It appears "Go west, young (wo)man!" is far from dead.

This migration score is driven by two factors - how many people move to the city each year as a proportion of the city's population and how far people travel when they move to the city. Looking at these two drivers across these cities four distinct groups became clear -

What does migration look like across cities?

Cities plotted based on migration rate and migration distance traveled.
The quadrants are drawn at the median of each axis.

US Migratory Matrix

Source: Census American Community Survey (2008-2012 mobility estimates).

What we see above is:

And there sits DC in the Hub. But beyond being a government town what are the distinct characteristics and trends of the city? More on that to come...

Technical notes: Graphics and rankings are based on the Census American Community Survey (ACS) 2008-2012 mobility estimates. The data is at the county-level. In some instances, the county extends beyond the city but there was not sufficient difference to exclude or weight such cases. Average distance travel is calculated using an average weighted by the number of migrants. The quadrants in the scatterplot shown above are defined by the median of each measure. The migratory score used to calculate rankings and circle size is based on the weighted average distance traveled by migrants and the number of migrants proportional to city size. You can find complete code on my github page.