New Data Tool and Research Show Where People Move as Young Adults

Nearly six in 10 young adults live within 10 miles of where they grew up, and eight in 10 live within 100 miles, according to a new study by researchers at the U.S. Census Bureau and Harvard University.

Even the prospect of higher earnings in more distant locations does little to change these patterns.

The new study examines the migration patterns of young adults and explores where people go between childhood and young adulthood. It also analyzes how those patterns differ across demographic groups and whether people move greater distances to take advantage of job opportunities.

The research used newly constructed and publicly available statistics on the migration flows of young adults in the United States. You can explore the patterns at migrationpatterns.org.

The data show a key pattern: most young adults do not move far from their childhood home.

 

About the Data

The dataset for this project includes migration between commuting zones (CZs) for young adults for all 741 CZs in the United States. CZs are collections of counties that serve as a measure of local labor markets.

The data provide not only aggregate migration patterns but also migration flows broken down into four race/ethnicity categories and five quintiles of parental income.

The final dataset draws upon anonymized decennial census, survey and tax data for people born from 1984 to 1992, to measure migration between locations in childhood and young adulthood. Childhood locations are measured at age 16 and locations in young adulthood are measured at age 26.

Interactive data visualizations can be found at migrationpatterns.org, where the full dataset is also available for download.

Migration Patterns

The data show a key pattern: most young adults do not move far from their childhood home.

Figure 1 illustrates these patterns for individuals who grew up in Indianapolis: 73% remained there as young adults. Among those who left, nearby Terre Haute, Indiana, was a more common destination than, for example, New York City.

Figure 1. Migration Patterns of Young Adults Who Grew Up in Indianapolis, IN

Those who grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, follow similar patterns (Figure 2). More children moved to nearby Waterloo (3.59%) or Des Moines (4.12%) than cross state lines to Chicago (2.3%), which is only slightly further away.

Figure 2. Migration Patterns of Young Adults Who Grew Up in Dubuque, IA

Migration Patterns Vary By Race/Ethnicity

There are significant differences in migration patterns by race/ethnicity.

For example, Black young adults moved, on average, 60 fewer miles than White young adults — 130 miles vs. 190 miles. This is because White young adults were more likely to leave their childhood CZ