From 2010 to 2017 net migration into DC was greater than that of 31 states

Housing demand and school enrollment are examples of how this migration has had an influence on the city’s economy

The Census Bureau estimates DC’s population was 693,972 as of July 1, 2017, an increase of 92,206 from the April 1, 2010 census. Although DC had more people than only two states in 2017, the amount of DC’s increase since 2010 was greater than in 19 states. In percentage terms DC’s 15.3% gain over the 7 years was almost three times the US average (5.5%) and greater than that in all 50 states. (The percentage gains in the 7 states with the most rapid increases in population—Colorado. Florida, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Washington—ranged between 10.1% and 12.6%)

Net in-migration is the principal explanation for DC’s relatively rapid population gains. In other words, more people moved in than moved out.

  • Net migration into DC of 57,912 accounted for almost two-thirds (63.7%) of the city’s population increase.
  • DC’s net migration was greater than in 31 states. It represented a 9.6 % increase over DC’s total 2010 population, a higher percentage gain from migration than in every state except Florida (10.3%).
  • DC’s net migration was almost evenly split between international (47%) and domestic (53%).
  • The amount of net international migration into DC topped 14 states, but net domestic migration was even more striking: DC outpaced 35 states.

table 1

Migration also contributes to the part of DC’s population gain resulting from natural increase (which is births minus deaths).

According to the Census Bureau about one-third (36.3%) of DC’s population increase from 2010 to 2017 was due to natural increase. It should be noted, however, that many of the births that occurred in DC must have been to parents who migrated into the city during those seven years. In addition, the relatively young age of many migrants meant that few of them died in those years. In DC there were only 51.7% as many deaths as births over the period whereas for the US as a whole there were 66.1% as many deaths as births. Consequently, although DC had more births than only two states, the natural increase in DC’s population from 2010 to 2017 was greater than in 9 states.

Migration and age groups in DC. According to the economic forecasting company IHS Global Insight, 85% of the increases in DC’s population from 2010 to 2017 fell in two age groups: (1) 25 to 44 years and (2) under 15. Although migration can occur within any age range, these two age groups are closely tied to migration.

  • From 2010 to 2017 DC’s population between the ages of 25 and 44 grew by 54,071, a 26.3% increase that accounted for 58.6% of all growth in the city from 2010 to 2017. It is not possible to know how many of the additional 54,071 persons in this age group were migrants, but it can be no coincidence that this increase is close to the 57,912 net migration into DC reported by Census for the period. This age group is mobile and can easily move for employment reasons—and is also the age group most likely to have children.
  • From 2010 to 2017 DC’s population under 15 years of age grew by 24,436, a 29.2% increase slightly higher than that for the 25 to 44 age group. Accounting for 13.9% of the city’s population in 2010, children under 15 accounted for 26.5% of all growth from 2010 to 2017. Again, it is not possible to know how many of the additional children of this age either accompanied persons migrating to DC or were born to such migrants after they arrived, but surely many were.

The scale of the changes in migration and age groups that occurred between 2010 and 2017 would be expected to have many influences in the District’s economy, and this has been the case. For example, according to CoStar, a private sector firm that collects data on apartments and other commercial real property, from the first quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2017 there was an increase of 21,492 in occupied market rate apartment units in the District of Columbia. Similarly, enrollment in DC Public and Charter schools increased by 17,139 from the 2009-10 to 2016-7 school years, a 23.5% gain. Increases of these magnitudes in housing and school enrollments would not have been possible without the net in-migration experienced in DC from 2010 to 2017.

table 2

graph 1

The course of net migration will continue to have a great deal of influence on the the District’s economy. Migration is a net concept, meaning that it is the difference between those moving in and those moving out, so the questions surrounding migration have to do both with DC’s ability to attract new people and to retain those that are here.

According to Moody’s Analytics, an economic forecasting company, the nation’s population in the 20 to 30 age group is actually expected to decline over the coming years. From the first quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2017 there was a 22.6% increase in the 25 to 29 age group, whereas in the next five years Moody’s expects a 3% decline. To maintain its past inflow of young adults in this age group DC would therefore have to attract a larger share of the national total than was true of the past few years. In attracting people to DC an important question is also the city’s continuing ability to attract workers over 30 years of age who are not coming here for first or entry level jobs.

For retaining people who are here the key questions center on those 25 to 44 year-olds who have been at the center of DC’s recent population growth. What share of this age cohort will find sufficient job opportunities and housing options and secondary school options to keep them committed to staying in the District of Columbia?

There are, of course, many factors affecting migration into DC that are beyond the city’s control. These include developments in the national economy, federal spending policies that can make it easier or harder to find employment in DC’s key industry, and national policies affecting immigration that might reduce net international migration not only to DC but elsewhere in the country.

About the data.

This is the third of three blogs on DC population based on the December 2017 estimates of the US Census Bureau of DC population in 2017.

The population data for the District of Columbia for April 2010 and July 2017 are estimates from the US Bureau of the Census. The July 2017 data for DC and all of the states were released in December 2017 and contains an analysis of the components of natural increase and migration that explain the net changes in population from 2010 to 2017 for the US and for each jurisdiction.

Data on the age composition of DC population for the first quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2017 are estimates from the economic forecasting firm IHS Global Insight.

Changes in the 25-29 year-old age cohort in the US are from the economic forecasting firm Moody’s Analytics.

Data on occupied market rate apartment units in DC in 2010.1 and 2017.2 are from CoStar, a real estate information firm that tracks development in the District of Columbia and elsewhere in the nation.

Data on yearly enrollments in DC Public and DC Charter schools is from the DC Public Charter School Board.

An earlier version of this blog appeared in the February 2018 District of Columbia Economic and Revenue Trends report issued by the District of Columbia Office of Revenue Analysis, a component of the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Appendix table

table 3



3 thoughts on “From 2010 to 2017 net migration into DC was greater than that of 31 states

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