A Decade of Domestic Migration Patterns: Ten-Year Atlas Study Available Online

May 9, 2002

EVANSVILLE (Ind.) -- Atlas Van Lines' ten-year study of domestic household goods moves is now available on the Atlas Web site: atlasvanlines.com. The migration study, based on a state-by-state breakdown of inbound and outbound moves, looks at moving trends in the U.S. between 1991 and 2001. Comparative state-by-state data and yearly trend summaries are posted with the migration study, and the color migration map is also available on the site under the "News" icon. The most recent years' studies are based on approximately 100,000 household goods (HHG) moves per year provided by Atlas Van Lines.

Migration patterns illustrated by the yearly analysis mirror shifts in the nation's economic and employment conditions during the 1990s. Because more than 80 percent of the HHG moves Atlas provides are done through corporate relocation contracts, the study offers a profile of corporate moving activities during the 10-year period.

A Shifting Population
Per-state inbound and outbound migration numbers during 1991 mark the early stages of a six- to seven-year period when the nation's biggest metropolitan areas — such as those in and around New York City and Los Angeles — saw more people moving out than moving in. The year flagged an impending population shift from California and the Northeast to more rural, less populated areas of the nation — particularly the Pacific Northwest, the South and the South Atlantic states.

In 1993 Atlas reported an upswing in the number of companies pulling up stakes and moving the entire facility to locations with better tax incentives and cheaper resources. Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas each experienced an influx of household goods shipments during 1992, (reflected in the '93 report) and by 1994, the data for Oregon indicated a 110 percent increase in incoming household goods shipments over the previous year. Washington D.C. that year showed a 94 percent increase in inbound moves.

"The greatest domestic migration gains during the 1990s have occurred in.... non-metropolitan areas — mainly the Mountain states, South Atlantic states, Texas and the Ozarks," William H. Frey, demographer at the University of Michigan, stated in 1997. Frey added that by 1996, Los Angeles and New York had lost more than one million domestic migrants each.

Inbound activity in America's heartland — which had earlier been dubbed with the unfortunate nickname "The Rust Belt" — appeared to be picking up by 1996 after layoffs and corporate downsizing in earlier years sent Midwesterners fleeing to more stable regions. States such as Kentucky and Indiana found themselves welcoming new industry and a growing number of incoming residents during the mid-90s while economic experts talked of America's strong, growing economy.

The Balance Returns
By 1997, the numbers for California had shifted as well. Finishing the Atlas study as an outbound state from 1991 to 1996, California began a steady recovery in the later 90s, becoming an inbound state again by year-end 1997. Alaska broke a trend during the late 90s as well when, for the first time since the study began in '91, that state's outbound numbers took a surprising leap. Alaska showed a 57 percent increase in outbound moves between 1995 and 1996, but the state returned to its inbound status the following year, and has since maintained either a balanced or an incoming classification.

Migration patterns illustrated in the 2001 trending map indicate California continues to maintain its incoming status — although with a smaller margin during 2001 — while the upper Midwest continued an outbound trend that for some states — such as Minnesota and Wisconsin — leans toward the "balanced" edge. In the Northeast, numbers for New York state still illustrated an outbound trend in 2001, but with smaller "out versus in" margins in recent years. However, Pennsylvania finished 2001 as a balanced state after several years as an outbound state. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maryland have fared well over the decade, continuing to hold an inbound or balanced status over most of those years.

While the majority of states in the Northeast, Southeast and Pacific Northwest regions finished the year with a balanced status, the 2001 Atlas study showed the following as incoming states during 2001: Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Washington D.C., Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island, Alaska and Hawaii.

Headquartered in Evansville, Ind., Atlas Van Lines is North America's second-largest carrier of household goods with some 600 agents in the U.S. and Canada and more than 800 worldwide. Atlas specializes in corporate relocation and in the transport of high-value goods such as electronics, new fixtures, tradeshow exhibits and fine arts.