Migration in the Washington Region

Between 2000 and 2016, the population in the Washington region increased from 4.86 million people to 6.13 million people. This change was the result of three factors: the natural increase (births minus deaths), net domestic migration, and net foreign migration. During this period, population gains occurred from the natural increase and net foreign migration while the region lost population from net domestic migration.

Population growth that results from the natural increase is relatively predictable and primarily based on an individual’s life cycle. As such, the patterns over time and the characteristics of new residents (babies) are stable and depend upon the characteristics of current residents. By contrast, migration is more dependent upon external factors, like economic opportunity, cost of living, and quality of life. These factors change, both in the Washington region and elsewhere, resulting in differing patterns over time.

Migration in the Washington Region: Trends between 2000 and 2015 and Characteristics of Recent Migrants
September 2017
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View Executive Summary as PDF ›
View Executive Summary as a Blog Post ›

Key highlights of the report are below.

Domestic Migration
  • Net domestic migration in the Washington region resulted in population losses during the 2000-2015 period, overall, but was positive during two periods: 2000-2002 and 2009-2011.
  • Domestic migration inflows were stable throughout the 2000-2015 period but outflows varied considerably.
  • Domestic outflows accelerated during periods when the national economy was gaining strength and decelerated when the national economy was negative or following a downward trajectory.
  • Domestic in-migrants in recent years were more likely to be younger, highly educated and employed in higher wage sectors when compared to out-migrants.
Foreign Migration
  • The region’s net foreign migration and both inflows and outflows were stable throughout the 2000-2015 period.
  • Foreign in-migrants to the Washington region fell into two categories:
    • U.S.-born in-migrants, those born in the U.S., who were somewhat older and more likely to be employed by the Federal Government as compared to domestic in-migrants, and
    • foreign-born in-migrants who were more likely to be older, less educated, and less attached to the labor force.