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Where Do New Jersey’s Out-Migrants Go?

October 25th, 2018 by

What are the most common destinations, at the county level, for people who move out of New Jersey? Part 1 of a series investigating where New Jersey’s out-migrating residents, in particular its Millennials, are going.

The question of whether or not New Jersey is losing Millennials to other states (answer: It is) raises other questions, including whether the out-migration of young people is any different from the long-standing general domestic out-migration from New Jersey (and indeed from most of the Northeast) to other, usually warmer, parts of the country. Where do people – of any age – go when they move out of New Jersey?

To establish a baseline for the top destinations for all New Jersey out-migrants irrespective of age, the table below contains a list of the top 30 counties that received the largest numbers of out-migrants from New Jersey between 2009 and 2015.*


Destination County Destination State Major City in County Total NJ Out-migrants to County 2009 thru 2015
New York County New York Manhattan Borough 81,813
Philadelphia County Pennsylvania coextensive w/city of Philadelphia 57,269
Bucks County Pennsylvania NE Philadelphia suburbs 30,799
Queens County New York Queens Borough 28,171
Northampton County Pennsylvania Bethlehem/Easton 28,139
Kings County New York Brooklyn Borough 27,171
New Castle County Delaware Wilmington 24,744
Palm Beach County Florida West Palm Beach/Boca Raton 21,072
Broward County Florida Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood 18,277
Miami-Dade County Florida Miami 17,271
Bronx County New York Bronx Borough 16,713
Los Angeles County California Los Angeles 16,351
Orange County Florida Orlando 16,110
Montgomery County Pennsylvania N/NW Philadelphia suburbs 15,380
Maricopa County Arizona Phoenix 15,161
Delaware County Pennsylvania W/SW Philadelphia suburbs 14,992
Chester County Pennsylvania W Philadelphia suburbs 14,179
Mecklenburg County North Carolina Charlotte 14,048
Suffolk County Massachusetts Boston 13,428
Lehigh County Pennsylvania Allentown 13,361
Harris County Texas Houston 13,036
Middlesex County Massachusetts Lowell/N and W Boston suburbs 12,990
Wake County North Carolina Raleigh 12,956
Hillsborough County Florida Tampa 11,586
Fairfield County Connecticut Bridgeport/Stamford/Danbury 11,051
Westchester County New York Yonkers/N suburban NYC 10,750
Cook County Illinois Chicago 10,613
District of Columbia District of Columbia Washington 10,477
Centre County Pennsylvania State College 10,081
Lee County Florida Cape Coral/Fort Myers 10,049


There is nothing terribly surprising on the list. The two big cities that are immediately adjacent to New Jersey (Philadelphia and four of the five boroughs of New York) dominate the top of the list, along with many of their non-New Jersey suburban counties. Several other large, urbanized counties whose labor markets overlap with New Jersey’s appear as well: Lehigh and Northampton counties in Pennsylvania; New Castle County, Delaware; and Fairfield County, Connecticut. There are six counties of central and southern Florida that illustrate Florida’s reputation as a retirement destination for people who are tired of Northeastern winters. Centre County, Pennsylvania, most likely makes the list because it’s the home of Penn State, attracting a fair number of recent high school graduates from neighboring New Jersey (remember, these data include out-migrants of all ages, including kids going off to college). Rounding out the list are the central counties of a few of the country’s largest metro areas (Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Washington, Boston, Phoenix) and a pair of second-tier Sunbelt metros (Charlotte, Raleigh).

By and large, people leaving New Jersey tend to either stay nearby (possibly in search of cheaper housing, in the case of moves to Pennsylvania or Delaware), move to a very large metro area elsewhere in the country (often with better weather), or retire to Florida.

In the next installment, we will examine migration outflows broken out by age range, to investigate where Millennial out-migrants in particular are going, and whether their destinations follow the same patterns visible in the overall data or if they tend to be attracted to different types of places than older generations.

Part 2: Where do New Jersey’s Out-migrating Millennials go?

*County-to-county migration flows are available every year from the five-year version of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, starting in 2009. We retrieved data on out-migrants from every New Jersey county for every year from 2009 through 2015 and summed them by destination county to produce a list of the most popular destinations. Note that in this analysis we are only looking at out-migrants, not in-migrants; we are considering the destinations of people who leave New Jersey, but not the origins of those who move in. So the flows we are discussing are gross outflows, not net.

One Response to “Where Do New Jersey’s Out-Migrants Go?”

  1. Joseph says:

    Lots of people moving to places with better cities than we’ve got. It would’ve been nice if NJ hadn’t spent half a century sabotaging its cities, but since we can only move forward, I really hope to see our leaders take New Jersey Future’s advice and build back up our great urban places!

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