Newly released figures confirm what builders already know firsthand: More immigrants as well as native-born Americans are emigrating from expensive states like California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey -- in favor of the Sunbelt, the Midwest, and the Southeast -- than are moving into those states.

For the first time, net migration numbers for California were negative, meaning more people left the state than moved there. However, new immigrants and births have kept the state's growth steady. According to a report issued in August from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2,204,500 Californians left the state from 1995 to 2000. The state's net migration figure for the period is a negative 755,536.

The report also shows that a smaller share of new arrivals are settling in states that have been traditional immigrant meccas. About 60 percent of the people who came to the U.S. between 1995 and 2000 went to California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey, down from 73 percent a decade earlier. The trend away from those states should continue, according to experts at the Urban Institute, as immigrants send word back home that there is farm or factory work in places like Georgia or Nevada. The next wave of immigrants will skip the "stepping-stone states" of New York or California and head straight to where the jobs are, thinking, "California is full."

The report also concluded that:

  • Immigrants moving to California from other states are better educated than those leaving. Highly educated people are better able to handle California's cost of living.
  • In most cases, if more U.S.-born residents leave a state than come in, the same holds true of the foreign-born. This was true of California, New York, and Illinois. But New Jersey and Michigan were the exceptions. They both lost native-born American residents but gained immigrant population.

Mixed Migration: Newly released Census figures show that once-growing states are now losing population.