Urban and suburban splits across the US

January 28, 2021

Net migration by metro across the US

Net migration (level) by metro, from January 2020 through November 2020. Spikes are sized by the amount (green and up, positive; red and down, negative).
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

Key points

  • Markets with positive net migration and less-steep employment declines saw stronger rent growth through November 2020.
  • Net migration for the New York metro as a whole was negative, but suburban neighborhoods within NYC had positive net migration through November 2020. Boston saw the same pattern.
  • Los Angeles, by comparison, had net outflows in urban and suburban neighborhoods in 2020.
  • Florida and Texas markets continued strong growth, along with peripheral New York metro markets (Dutchess County, Stamford, and Newark).

Background

  • StratoDem Analytics generates hyper-local economic and demographic estimates across the US, meshing the latest economic indicators to create nowcasts of market conditions. This analysis, meshing in new mobile data from Unacast, expands the analysis of mobility across the US, revealing two major trends:

    1. General outperformance of Texas, Arizona, and the Southeastern US for migration flows
    2. Substantial outperformance of suburban neighborhoods for net migration relative to urban neighborhoods, even in markets like New York and Boston where the overall picture is negative in 2020

Top 10 metros over 250,000 population for net migration rate in 2020

Metro Net migration rate
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 2.52%
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 2.00%
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 1.80%
Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL 1.73%
Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 1.70%
Port St. Lucie, FL 1.69%
Salisbury, MD-DE 1.67%
Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY 1.59%
Dutchess County-Putnam County, NY 1.33%
Montgomery County-Bucks County-Chester County, PA 1.32%

Net migration rate is estimated net migration (net inflow minus net outflow) through November 2020 relative to estimated 2020 population.
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

Nearly all major university markets fall at the bottom of the 2020 rankings, including:

  • State College, PA (Penn State)
  • Ames, IA (Iowa State)
  • Bloomington, IN (Indiana)
  • Blacksburg, VA (Virginia Tech)
  • Ithaca, NY (Cornell)

The spike map (inspired by these beautiful visualizations at the New York Times) below shows the net migration level from January 2020 through November 2020 for metros. Higher spikes indicate a larger net in-migration to the county. New York and Los Angeles pop as the most obvious negative markets (large outflow from the area), although surrounding New York markets like Dutchess County, Stamford, and Newark were positive.

Texas markets, including Dallas, Houston, and Austin still showed strong growth, and nearly all Florida markets saw positive growth over the past year.

Net migration by MSA, 2020

Net migration by metro across the US

Net migration (level) by metro, from January 2020 through November 2020. Spikes are sized by the amount (green and up, positive; red and down, negative).
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

Florida markets, in addition to strong net growth, also have diverse geographic origins for new residents. The Naples MSA, for example, draws from major markets across the US, including Chicago, New York, Boston, and Minneapolis. While Naples has grown substantially from net migration in 2020, it also exhibits a seasonal trend, with population declines during late spring into the summer (top right chart of net flows below).

Naples, FL MSA migration patterns

Naples, Florida migration origins

Migration patterns and origins for inflows to the Naples, FL MSA from January 2020 through November 2020
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

By comparison, Dutchess County, NY (upstate of New York City) has drawn almost exclusively from New York markets for growth in 2020. Nearly all of the inflow in 2020 has come from the New York City metropolitan division, with the rest of the top five origins around New York City (and Albany).

Dutchess County, NY migration patterns

Dutchess, New York migration origins

Migration patterns and origins for inflows to Dutchess County, NY from January 2020 through November 2020
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

Urban - Suburban divides evident in New York City, other major metros

Classifying all census tracts across the US as urban, suburban, or rural 1 reveals large deviations in net migration between neighborhood types. In 2020, suburban and rural census tracts across the US significantly outperformed urban tracts for net migration. Compared to 2019, urban net migration rates declined by 1.8 percentage points.

Year Urban neighborhoods Suburban neighborhoods Rural neighborhoods
2019 +0.4% -0.3% 0.0%
2020 -1.4% +0.3% +1.1%

1. Urbanization status based on StratoDem Analytics analysis of Urbanization Perceptions Small Area Index from "The Urbanization Perceptions Small Area Index: An Application of Machine Learning and Small Area Estimation to Household Survey Data" - Bucholtz, Molfino and Kolko (2020).

Not all markets behaved the same for the urban - suburban divergence. The New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ metropolitan division had a net migration rate of -0.55% from January 2020 through November 2020. However, this masks a critical divide between urban and suburban neighborhoods in the region: Urban neighborhoods declined by 1.4%, while suburban New York metro neighborhoods grew 0.7% on average.

Neighborhood classification Net migration rate, 2020
Urban -1.4%
Suburban +0.7%
All neighborhoods -0.55%

Net migration rate is estimated net migration (net inflow minus net outflow) through November 2020 relative to estimated 2020 population.
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

New York City urban/suburban classification

New York neighborhood level urbanization classification

New York, NY urbanization classification. Purple = Urban; Blue = Suburban; Green = Rural
Source: StratoDem Analytics

The largest outflow from urban neighborhoods in New York City occurred in March, with a smaller corresponding inflow to suburban neighborhoods in the NYC metropolitan division. In August and September, urban neighborhoods were attracting people back before flipping back negative in the fall.

New York neighborhood level urbanization classification

Urban and suburban neighborhood net migration for the New York City metropolitan division through November 2020.
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

Naples, FL, by comparison had a higher net migration rate for urban neighborhoods than for suburban neighborhoods in 2020. Urban neighborhoods grew 5.9% in 2020, compared to 2.2% for suburban neighborhoods.

Neighborhood classification Net migration rate, 2020
Urban +5.9%
Suburban +2.2%
All neighborhoods +2.52%

Net migration rate is estimated net migration (net inflow minus net outflow) through November 2020 relative to estimated 2020 population. One caveat: Fewer than 10 tracts in Naples are classified as urban, and we would bet that someone from New York City would consider those more suburban!
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Unacast data

Naples, FL MSA urban/suburban classification

Naples neighborhood level urbanization classification

Naples, FL urbanization classification. Purple = Urban; Blue = Suburban; Green = Rural
Source: StratoDem Analytics

Rent growth strongest in markets with strongest employment situation and positive net migration

Markets with positive net migration and smaller employment declines over the past year outperformed for rent growth. The average growth in the Zillow Observed Rent Index for metropolitan areas with positive net migration and employment declines of less than 5% was 4.71% from November 2019 to November 2020. For metros with negative net migration and larger employment losses, rent growth was only 1.74%.

Port St. Lucie, FL, for example, saw employment declines under 5% and a positive net migration rate, and rent growth of over 7% over the period. By comparison, the Philadelphia metro division lost more than 5% of employment and had net population outflows, and rent growth around 1.5%.

Rent growth from November 2019 to November 2020

Employment down less than 5% Employment down more than 5%
Positive net migration 4.71% 4.07%
Negative net migration 3.23% 1.74%
Source: StratoDem Analytics; StratoDem Analytics analysis of Zillow data and Unacast data

Where this analysis is headed

As noted in this memo, markets are shifting faster than the data used by most real estate investors, developers and builders. But the data, systems and analytical tools now available have taken a significant leap over the past year, combining higher-frequency data with deeper datasets and stronger tools that generate more granularity and alpha than ever.

For greater detail on this analysis, or other needs for advanced analytics, modeling and forecasting tools, contact StratoDem Analytics at [email protected]

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