Sorting and polarizing in America


American cities are changing with domestic migration. Kansas data excerpted.

A new study looks at the characteristics of migrants in America — that is, individuals and families moving one city to another. 1 (“City” in this context means a consolidated statistical area, metropolitan statistical area, or micropolitan statistical area.)

The author explains: “Domestic migration across U.S. metropolitan areas is selective: in-migrants to expensive metros tend to have higher incomes and educational attainment than out-migrants, while the opposite is true in the least expensive metros. This pattern contributes to the process of polarization across U.S. metros.”

The data is fascinating. Consider the household income of in-migrants and out-migrants. For the Wichita CSA, the median household income of in-migrants is $36,998, and for out-migrants, $38,814. The difference is -$1,186. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Wichita is becoming poorer, as this data is only for households migrating to and from Wichita. (The figures are the average values for the years 2005 to 2016.)

This result is not surprising, as the study notes a correlation between housing prices and a positive difference in migrant income. As Wichita has relatively low housing prices, a negative difference in migrant income is natural, according to the study data.

The study supplies data for all areas in the nation. I’ve isolated data for Kansas and present it here. Where is Lawrence? It’s part of the Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, MO-KS CSA.

Click for pdf version.


  1. Romem, Issi. Characteristics of Domestic Cross-Metropolitan Migrants. Available at


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