Easy to Use Migration Data

Published on Dec 11, 2019

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Drew Repp

Easy to Use Migration Data

We’ve all noticed it and feel it happening: a shift is occurring in where people are choosing to live. Communities across the country are seeing it in different forms, and anecdotally we know it’s happening. Your colleague tells you about the third house in her neighborhood that just got sold to a Seattle software developer. And chances are, someone at your Thanksgiving table made the comment, or some version of it, “How many more Californians are gonna move here?”

Economists, journalists, policy makers, and planners have all pointed to various causes of recent migration trends: baby boomers retiring and relocating, housing policy, millennials in search of affordability, tech booms, and everyone trying to escape traffic.

But regardless of the contributing factors, if migration data is made clear and accessible it is extremely valuable information. And Emsi’s new Migration report does just that. Available in the Region section of Developer, Emsi’s labor analytics platform for economic and workforce developers, the report puts easy to use migration data in the hands of users — and puts data behind the anecdotes.

Migration data can be leveraged in counties of all sizes in a myriad of ways. Just a few examples:

  • If a growing metro identifies its residents are leaking into neighboring counties, likely changing commute patterns, necessary infrastructure investments can be planned.

  • While developing a talent attraction marketing plan, migration data can be coupled with Profile Analytics to ensure campaigns are directed at the right audience.

  • Or, if trying to determine future workforce housing needs, migration trends can be included as a factor in making a data based decision on the likely number of housing units needed.

Data Source

Emsi’s migration tool uses year-to-year address changes reported to the IRS on individual tax returns. The data is then weighted to approximate the number of individuals and their family members who relocated. The inflows represent the estimated number of new residents to a state or county, and where they moved from. Outflows represent the estimated number of residents leaving a state or county, and where they moved to.

Due to its reliability, IRS data is a great starting point for migration analysis, as a change in the filing state and/or county by an individual clearly identifies a relocation. The geographic level of IRS data – down to the county – provides the detail needed to form valuable conclusions. IRS data also reveals not only net migration, but inflows and outflows, and where movers are coming from and going to. Future iterations of the tool will layer in additional sources, such as the American Community Survey, to provide further detail around age bands and income.

Using the report

Denton County, Texas recently placed No. 10 among large counties in our Talent Attraction Scorecard. But of the six metrics used in the Scorecard, its highest ranking came in 2012-2016 net migration (No. 7), making it interesting to examine with the migration tool.

As with many locations, much of the migration occurs amongst neighboring counties. Located north of the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex, Denton saw most of its inbound migration and total net migration from neighboring Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant, counties. But after that, six of the next seven counties for net migration were outside Texas.

By selecting the counties of interest, we’re then able to run a regional comparison report to understand some of the differences generally between the counties, and also dive into industry and occupation specific comparisons.

Depending on a community’s strengths and goals, this information can be used to unpack various trends and subsequent actions. With a strong manufacturing base, and knowing there is already an inbound migration trend occurring from Los Angeles and Orange County, Denton could examine if the southern California counties would be good to target for talent attraction. A look at mechanical engineers reveals that Denton is projected to have a 22% increase in jobs in the occupation, and the Cost of Living Adjusted average hourly earnings is much higher than Los Angeles and Orange, potentially making Denton attractive to engineering talent.

This new data allows for EDOs, workforce development organizations, universities, and businesses to quickly and easily see migration trends in their region of interest. As the competition for talent continues, migration data can assist in capitalizing on where people are coming from and address issues based on where they are leaving to.


Interested in discussing use cases of Migration data? Fill out the form below and let us show you how!