An interactive map tracks movement between metro areas from 2004-2010.

There’s obviously a lot of talk about the rural-to-urban shift that’s underway in countries all over the world. The majority of people now live in urban areas, and that’s not expected to change. But many countries have had urban majorities for decades. The United States, for example, has an urban population near 80 percent. So while there’s certainly some rural-to-urban migration happening, most of the movement in the U.S. is urban-to-urban.

A new interactive map from the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends research team breaks down these movements, watching population changes in and between the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. between 2004 and 2010. (This is the latest in a series of worthwhile maps from MetroTrends, which has recently looked at economic security and job growth by sector in metropolitan areas.)

(Click through to access the interactive version of the map)

The data is derived from the Internal Revenue Service, which tracks year-to-year address changes on individual income tax returns. It does not account for movement between counties within the same metropolitan area, nor does it include migration flows from or to foreign countries. The data can be viewed for single year changes, or for the entire 2004-2010 period.

The map highlights some interesting changes in the country, especially before and after the housing crash, and throughout the economic downturn. Instantly noticeable is the high concentration of net loss of migration in population centers in the northeast, the Rust Belt and California. Six of the 10 most populous cities in the country saw a net loss of migration between 2004 and 2010.

Between 2004 and 2010, the biggest losers include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans. The biggest gainers include Austin, Las Vegas, Raleigh, Portland, and many of the metro areas in Florida

It’s also interesting to see how these trends change from year to year. For example, most of the migration in this time period occurred before the housing crash and economic downturn. After 2008, the amount of people moving and the differentials between in- and out-flows have become much smaller.

For each metropolitan area, the map includes information on the top three metro sources of in-migration and the top three metro locations for out-migration. Tracking these over time creates a vivid picture of not only population dynamics but also of the relative strengths and attractive powers of certain metropolitan areas.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A view of a Harlem corner.
    Equity

    How Ronald Reagan Halted the Early Anti-Gentrification Movement

    An excerpt from Newcomers, a new book by Matthew L. Schuerman, documents the early history of the anti-gentrification and back-to-the-city movements.

  2. photo: A woman crosses an overpass above the 101 freeway in Los Angeles, California.
    Transportation

    Navigation Apps Changed the Politics of Traffic

    In an excerpt from the new book The Future of Transportation, CityLab’s Laura Bliss adds up the “price of anarchy” when it comes to traffic navigation apps.

  3. photo: A metro train at Paris' Gare Du Nord.
    Transportation

    Can the Paris Metro Make Room for More Riders?

    The good news: Transit ridership is booming in the French capital. But severe crowding now has authorities searching for short-term solutions.

  4. photo: Mayor Luigi Brugnaro walks on St Mark's Square as exceptionally high tidal flooding engulfed the city.
    Environment

    Its Flood Barrier Unfinished, Venice Submerges Under a Record Tide

    Seasonal acqua alta reached the highest level since 1966, leaving two dead and devastating damage. The city’s ambitious flood barrier isn’t ready yet.

  5. a bike rider and bus riders in Seattle.
    Perspective

    There’s No App for Getting People Out of Their Cars

    “Mobility as a Service” boosters say that technology can nudge drivers to adopt transit and micromobility. But big mode shifts will take more than a cool app.  

×