Population change is a popular topic - we seem to remember the people that leave but what about the people that move into the state? And often we hear about one statistic or one source of data on migration. In this story we look at the big picture using multiple public data sources. We look underneath the topline numbers to understand if the steady drumbeat that ‘young people are leaving' or that the 'wealthy are leaving the state' is substantiated by the data.

In the fall of 2016, the Connecticut Data Collaborative hosted two CTData Forums focused on the topic of migration in Connecticut led by Thomas Cooke, Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Connecticut, also with a presentation by Michael Howser, Connecticut State Data Center Director.  The discussions arose out of a desire to confirm or reject the prevailing narrative, as echoed through the media, of a 'mass exodus' from Connecticut.  

After the forums several attendees convened and determined that a deeper dive into the publicly available data was necessary in order to understand the overall trends in migration. This analysis broadens our understanding of the issue with data. 

 To read the full report that provides these data in greater detail, click here

What are Connecticut's population trends and who is migrating?

This data story seeks to answer three questions:

  1. What is driving Connecticut's recent population declines;
  2. Is Connecticut unique in these declines; and
  3. Who is migrating in and out of Connecticut by age, educational attainment, and income?

Connecticut's total population has declined over the past 3 years.

In fact, in 2016 Connecticut's total population fell below 2010 levels.

But what is contributing to this decline?

One factor: a declining number of births

Post-recession, Connecticut has about 14% fewer births each year compared to pre-recession averages. Increased deaths are also slightly contributing to Connecticut's overall population decline.

2004-2007 Average (Pre-Recession) 2013-2016 Average (Post-Recession) Percent Change
Births42,00336,073-14%
Deaths29,43130,0332%

Primary driver of population declines: domestic out-migration.

Average domestic out-migration has increased by 55% post-recession compared to pre-recession, a difference of about 9,200 people.

2004 - 2007 Average 2013-2016 Average Change Percent Change
Net Domestic Migration-16,606-25,787-9,18155%

International migration has helped, but not enough to offset domestic out-migration.

Average international in-migration has grown 29% post-recession compared to pre-recession BUT in terms of overall net migration, we've seen an increased loss starting from 2012.

2004 - 2007 Average 2013-2016 Average Change Percent Change
International In-Migration12,82016,5103,69029%
Net Domestic Migration-16,606-25,787-9,18155%

So is this trend of increasing domestic out-migration unique to Connecticut?

This graph displays the percent of the people migrating each year as a percent of total population - it's important to note that only a SMALL percentage of the population migrate each year.

In turns out, New England and our Neighboring States have also experienced an increase in people leaving. However, CT has fallen the most post-recession.

Our New England neighbors are faring better

Connecticut's domestic migration trends are now more like New York and New Jersey.

However domestic out-migration has more than doubled in Connecticut while New York and New Jersey are better than pre-recession. Again, it's important to note the scale, in general the percentage loss of total population is less than one percent.

Where are people coming from and where are they leaving to?

Connecticut gains more tax returns (households) from New York than it loses to New York. (The graphic displays the top ten places for in migration based on address changes on federal tax returns; hover over state to see the number of returns).

But more tax returns (households) leave to go to Massachusetts and Florida than migrate in to Connecticut from those states.

Who exactly is migrating?

Based on publicly available data, we can look at migration by educational attainment, age, and income.

Migration flows by educational attainment show....

What do the flows look like by age?

  • First, note that the flows in and out are much larger than the resulting net migration.
  • Young adults move at a higher rate than the rest of the population (larger flows both in and out of Connecticut).
  • Connecticut is losing young adults on net (18-29 year olds), but gaining working age adults (30-49 year olds).

And now by income (Adjusted Gross Income) - Largest movement and net loss of those earning less than $50,000.

Interestingly, 40% of the flows for income less than $50,000 are for households less than 35 years old, and 20% are over the age of 65. Again, the flows are bigger than the net for each income grouping.

CT Department of Revenue Services data also show the largest flows at the lowest income levels...

...compared to higher income groups. However, increasing rates of out-migration from Connecticut across all income groups.

But interesting to note, a high level of 'churn' of filers between AGI groups, most notably for the highest income earners.

AGI Group Gained into Lost from
$15,000-$50,00012.2%8.5%
$50,000-$100,00015.6%10.7%
$100,000-$200,00018.6%13.0%
$200,000-$500,00024.3%17.0%
$500,000-$1,000,00034.0%25.9%
$1,000,000-$5,000,00031.4%26.4%
$5,000,000 or more38.5%34.3%

Conclusion

Migration tracks the flow of people into and out of a region, flows that are always much larger than the resulting net migration. In reality, net migration is a small percent of the population.  Historically, Connecticut experienced population losses to other regions of the U.S. This is also true of New England in general. However, the recent declines in Connecticut's total population are primarily driven by increasing rates of net domestic out-migration and to a smaller degree a declining birth rate. But there are positive trends. The state gains prime working age adults and children. Connecticut also attracts well-educated international migrants, and loses the smallest percent of graduate degree holders. By income, the largest flows are at the lowest income levels (though largely due to age of earners), though the state is experiencing a slight loss of its highest income earners (incomes of $5 million or more). However, when talking about migration and income, it is important to realize not all income leaves with a person (if someone leaves a job, the job stays and a new person earns the income in CT). 

Thank you to all who helped put this together. Many thanks to Manisha Srivastava, who is the report's primary author. Thank you to CT Data Collaborative staff who contributed to the report and the development of the story. Thank you as well to our reviewers: Patrick Flaherty at the Department of Labor, Derek Thomas at CT Voices for Children, and Bill Cibes.

Layout and design of online story: Sasha Cuerda

For questions about the report or analysis, please contact: Manisha.Srivastava@ct.gov or mrn@ctdata.org

For summaries of the CTData Forums hosted in the fall of 2016 follow these links:  Part I and Part II