Americans who can claim themselves "born-and-raised" are far more rare in some parts of the country. While most states count at least half of their current population as natives, there's a pretty large anomaly when you get to Nevada: Only 25 percent of its current residents were born in the state where they live. And it's been that way for 50 years.
This week the New York Times published a comprehensive infographic exploring U.S. migration patterns since 1900. The visualizations are presented state-by state as a series of somewhat complex charts showing where residents were born—the patterns twisting and twirling like colorful spaghetti noodles across the past century.
While some trends are interesting—those who are born in the South are likely to remain in the South, but the Midwest is starting to see more people who stay put—none is more fascinating than the case of Nevada. In 2012, only 25 percent of Nevadans were born in that state, a percentage that's been around the same for the past 50 years. (Florida, the only other state that comes close, was 36 percent native in 2012.)
On one hand, we can easily account for the fact that 75 percent of Nevadans are from somewhere else. Cultural lore will tell us that Nevada is a place where fortunes are made, with many non-natives moving to the state in search of fame or financial stability. The book Migration and Residential Mobility in the United States relates Nevada to other "boomstates" in the West. These are places which are known for their rapidly-growing industries, military outposts, or their attractiveness to retirees, which perennially bring in many new residents. But here, since we're also talking about natives, this is not the whole story.
Nevada's population has increased dramatically since 1950; it's consistently one of the fastest-growing states in the country. In fact, looking at a different migration study I wrote about last year, Nevada (and specifically the counties around Vegas) had the highest rates of people moving there of anywhere in the country from 1950 to 2010. You'd expect that massive influx of new residents to dwarf the born-and-raised population, yet the percentage of natives has stayed pretty much the same—small, yes, but the same. How could that be?
Again, back to Migration and Residential Mobility in the United States: The states with the highest immigration rates also often have the highest outmigration rates because itinerant populations come and go. Makes sense. That means that Nevada grows because it has a special skill: It is one of the only states that continues to attract as many or more people as it loses. But this also means that the rate of natives going elsewhere has been equal to the state's tremendous population growth. Each decade from 1950 to 2010, Nevada's population grew by more than 50 percent. That's a lot of natives leaving.
So with only one-fourth of native Nevadans sticking around, what happened to the other three-fourths? According to yet another migration study which uses U.S. Census data: They're going to California. This study focuses only on 2012, but you can see a huge percentage—almost 28,000 residents—crossing Nevada's western border. These recent departures are likely economic: Nevada suffered in the recession, with unemployment and foreclosures spiking, and its residents are in search of better opportunities. While this doesn't give us more information about why native-born Nevadans have been leaving over the past 100 years, it does give some insight into where some of them might be going today.
However, looking at the New York Times data, about 19 percent of Nevada's residents were born in California. So at least some of those departures are Californians going home. [New York Times]
Top photo by Americanspirit