Migration is the main driver of North Carolina’s population growth. Three of every four new residents added to the state between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, were from net migration, primarily from other states. (Note: individuals are classified as domestic or international migrants based on their country of prior residence, not on individual characteristics such as place of birth or citizenship status.) Between 2016 and 2017, the Census Bureau estimates that North Carolina had more population growth from domestic net migration than any other state except for Florida and Texas.
1. Nearly 600,000 individuals moved between North Carolina and other states in 2016
While the U.S. Census Bureau’s July 1 population estimates provide the best data on net gains (or losses) from migration, the 1-year American Community Survey provides detail on the ebbs and flows of individuals across state lines.
During 2016, more than 322,000 individuals moved to North Carolina from another state while 261,000 North Carolina residents moved elsewhere in the United States. In total, just over 583,000 individuals moved between North Carolina and another state in 2016. This was the highest volume of migration between North Carolina and other states since 2007, the prior peak, when just over 565,000 individuals moved to or from North Carolina and other states.
2. Net domestic migration remains low compared to mid-2000s
Although the total number of people moving between North Carolina and other states has returned to pre-recession levels, more people are moving out and fewer are moving in. As a result, the state gained an estimated 61,000 net domestic migrants during 2016. While this is an increase from 2011-2014, it is down from 2015 and less than half the prior peak of 128,000 in 2006.
3. Many moves occur between North Carolina and other Mid-Atlantic states
Between 2012-2016, the largest source of in-migrants to North Carolina was Virginia. On average, just over 30,000 Virginians moved to North Carolina each year. Florida (28,100) and South Carolina (26,700) were the second and third largest sources of migrants to the state, followed closely by New York (26,500).
These three states were also the most common destinations for North Carolina residents moving from the state. Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 29,200 North Carolinians moved to South Carolina each year. Another 25,800 moved to Florida and 23,500 to Virginia.
4. Steady in-flows from New York and New Jersey continue
Between 2012 and 2016, the largest source of net migrants to North Carolina was New York (averaging 15,600 per year), followed by New Jersey (7,800), Virginia (6,500), California (4,100), Pennsylvania (3,900), and Connecticut (3,500).
5. North Carolina had largest net out-migration to Texas, South Carolina, and Colorado
Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 15,800 NC residents moved to Texas while 13,200 Texans moved to NC each year, a net loss of -2,600. South Carolina (-2,400 annual net out-migration from NC) and Colorado (-2,300) were also leading destinations for individuals who moved away from North Carolina.