Blog: County Migration Patterns are Not the Same as State Migration Patterns

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Blog: County Migration Patterns are Not the Same as State Migration Patterns

By: Emily Harris and Heidi Prior

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

When people find out that we study Utah’s migration patterns, they immediately ask “Is it really all Californians moving to Utah?”. And the not-so-straightforward answer is (like it is for most demographic questions) “Well, it depends.” If you live in Cache County, you are going to see different sources of migrants than you would in Salt Lake County, and different than you would see in Sanpete County.

Our newest migration report seeks to answer the migration questions that we often receive about the geographic origins and destinations of Utah migrants with county detail, such as:

  • What counties are sending migrants to Utah?
  • Which Utah counties receive these out-of-state migrants?
  • Are Utahns leaving the state? And if so, where are they going?
  • Are all of Utah’s fast-growing counties receiving an influx of out-of-state migrants?
  • Do migrants impact smaller counties too?

We also produced a series of regional profiles offering a focused look into the migration patterns impacting the counties within each of Utah’s regions. These profiles provide more detail for smaller population counties and regions that are often dwarfed by the dynamics of the large populations along the Wasatch Front.

So, what did we find?

Utah has Strong Western Migration Ties…

Utah sends and receives the most out-of-state migrants to and from Clark County (Las Vegas), NV, Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ, and Los Angeles County, CA. King County (Seattle) and a couple of Idaho counties are also prominent. Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Washington counties send and receive 75% of out-of-state migrants, making them Utah’s gateway counties to and from other states.

Top 5 Counties Sending Migrants to Utah, 2015-2019

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

Top 5 Destination Counties for Migrants Leaving Utah, 2015-2019

Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

….But In-State Migrants are Just as Common as Out-of-State Migrants

It is equally likely that your new neighbor moved from another county in Utah, rather than from a different state. Many counties exchange lots of migrants back and forth, like Salt Lake and Utah counties, and Davis and Weber counties. However, some counties see a lot of in-state migrants relocating to their county but few leaving. Counties such as Tooele, Weber, and Sanpete might not come to mind when we think of out-of-state migrant destinations, but they draw a lot of Utah residents from other Utah counties.

Utah Counties with Highest and Lowest Total Net Migration to Other Utah Counties, 2015-2019

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

Note: Net migration is the number of in-migrants minus the number of out-migrants. A positive number indicates net in-migration, while a negative number indicates net out-migration. Small counties can have migration estimates with large margins of error and should be interpreted with caution.

The new migration report and regional profiles have so many more details about Utah’s county migration patterns, both with other states, and with other Utah counties. Whether your county of interest is big or small, we’ve dug through the data so that you don’t have to. This report adds another element to our existing migration research, which has focused on the characteristics of migrants and age patterns of movers throughout the state,

Emily Harris is a senior demographer at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Heidi Prior is a public policy analyst at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. 


2023-05-31T09:35:50+00:00May 31st, 2023|Blog, Demographic Research, Demographics|