Where did everybody go? Census data and the Minnesota migration

If you want to know where everybody’s going (or coming from) where you live, check out a new interactive tool and set of data the U.S. Census Bureau just put out.

Using data collected in its American Community Survey between 2007 and 2011, the census bureau has published new county-to-county migration tables.

You can plow through spreadsheets available for downloading here and learn, for example, that Hennepin County had a bigger net out-migration than any other Minnesota county, although it’s not what you’d expect.

Outside the state, the biggest net recipient of Hennepin County residents was not Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix), not Harris County, Texas (Houston), not Broward County, Florida. It was Cass County, N.D., home of Fargo.

But you can have more fun using the Census Flows Mapper. Click on any county in the country and see where everybody’s going.

Here’s the Hennepin County map, zoomed in a little to focus on Minnesota and the surrounding area. Blue counties are those that Hennepin County had a net loss to. Orange are those places that Hennepin County had a net gain from. (Biggest net gains, from outside Minnesota, came from Cook County, Ill.)

Blue shows net out-migration from Hennepin County from 2007 to 2011. Orange represents net in-migration to Hennepin County.

Notice that within the metro area, Hennepin County had a net migration out to some metro area counties, like Anoka, Scott and Carver counties but gained population from Dakota and Washington counties.

Here’s a little different map view for Ramsey County. Note there was actually a net migration into Ramsey County from several orange southern Arizona counties, something not true for Hennepin County.


Blue shows net out-migration from Ramsey County from 2007 to 2011. Orange represents net in-migration.

Take a look at the map for St. Louis County, home to Duluth. It lost people to the Southwest, for example, but looked like a magnet for people from much of the rest of northern Minnesota.

Blue shows net out-migration from St. Louis County from 2007 to 2011. Orange represents net in-migration.

You can create these maps for any county in the country.

But here’s one note of caution from my favorite rural census data cruncher, Ben Winchester at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality. These are estimates based on surveys, not actual hard counts from the 10-year census. That means the margin of error grows for counties with smaller populations. So, you might wonder, did 45 people really move from sparsely populated Traverse County in western Minnesota to Pueblo County in southern Colorado?

  • Todd Graham

    Pretty map mosaics. But what matters most is the magnitude of flows. So Peters’ blog somewhat buries the big story… Three points:
    1. Metro MSP experiences net loss of movers to Greater MN; this is a long-recognized trend, not new; mostly movement of people who have MN roots and are footloose in terms of work dependence.
    2. At the same time, Metro MSP experiences strong net gain of migrants from smaller Midwest metros that have lackluster economic conditions. People move here for the economy!
    3. Overall, the domestic migration gain vs loss for Metro MSP sums up to either slight loss or near zero. The loss is more than made up by international immigration gains. Metro MSP is a gateway for New Minnesotans from the rest of the world.