Lately, more and more folks have been asking me, “How are we doing? Is our [city, metro region, or state] losing people to other [cities, metro regions, or states.]” I’m sometimes surprised by who asks.

Their question usually stems from an article someone read or a meeting they attended. The question hangs, and I begin by answering with exactly what they don’t want to hear. “It depends,” I reply, with my most lawyer-like tone. What people often want to hear instead is an answer that supports a position they hold on another issue, whether in regards to housing, taxes, transportation, national borders, or even the weather.

“The answer,” I continue, “depends on which people you’re talking about.” They could be students or retirees. They could be people anywhere within the state’s borders or people in the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP) metro region. There are a lot of answers to this one question.

Rarely a week goes by without a new list, slideshow, or headline declaring something that contradicts the previous week’s content. But during the past few weeks, I found a pair of publications quite helpful. Each does a good job of presenting sound data that leaves some room for interpretation. And each is a reminder that the answer to your own question may depend on differing geographies, populations, and time horizons.

The first is a terrific story and data visualization by longtime friend of Make It. MSP. Andi Egbert at American Public Media. Andi examines state-by-state population growth across the country, breaking it apart by births, deaths, and relocations, both domestic and international.  The second story came later in January from William H. Frey of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, a longtime partner of GREATER MSP. Brookings examines migration across the country over the past five years, with a specific focus on 25-34 year old residents, as well as retirees. You can examine the data at a metro level or a state level.

2018 Migration and Business Data for Minneapolis + Saint Paul

Prior Make It. MSP. research, prepared by GREATER MSP team members Amanda Taylor, Maurice Harris, and Frances Huntley, along with our partners at Minnesota Compass, has largely focused on domestic migration – that’s attraction and retention – among professionals within the U.S. workforce. That’s a filter. And it distorts how we might interpret the data, which we have analyzed both year-by-year and through 5-year trends. Having said that, the narrative put forward by both APM and Brookings largely conforms with our previous interpretation of what’s happening in MSP.

Here are 5 takeaways that are consistent with data we shared in 2018 via Make It. MSP. Insights: Volume 2.

  1. Recent migration in MSP is positive and improving. By most measures, 2016 marked the best year of performance for the MSP region since before the recession. Brookings 5-year analysis indicates that 2017 was a similarly strong year among 25-34 year olds. Make It. MSP. will provide further analysis of 2017 and 2018 data this spring
  2. MSP stands out in the Midwest. With the exception of Columbus, no Midwest metro outperformed MSP in 25-34 year old migration over the past 5 years, according to Brookings. It is a similar story among workers more broadly. And at a state level, APM data shows Minnesota outperforming other Midwest states in state-to-state migration
  3. Regional performance does not equal state performance. While improving in recent years, the state of Minnesota experienced negative net migration during much of the past decade. However, when focusing on migration in and out of the MSP region alone, performance was largely positive
  4. Metro regions in the U.S. south and west top most lists. The Brookings data on 25-34 year olds mirrors Make It. MSP. findings for all working professionals. Many of the metro regions with the greatest positive net migration in recent years include places like Houston, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, Charlotte, and Austin
  5. Many of the largest U.S. metros are losing talent to other parts of the country. According to Brookings, the regions with the greatest negative migration of 25-34 year olds include many of the country’s largest metros like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston. New York and Chicago also experienced high out-migration more broadly

In part two of this blog series, we will begin to dig deeper by disaggregating the MSP region’s performance. That can be done in a variety of ways. Our 2018 report examined migration among professionals of color, for instance. Another way to break down the data is by industry or occupation.

Plus, during February, Make It. MSP. partners will dig into the region’s performance attracting and retaining technology talent, starting with a workshop on February 15.


Matt Lewis is Director of Make It. MSP. at the GREATER MSP Partnership
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