Net Migration Rates and Why They Matter

The other day I watched a news report about the net migration rates of the county I live in: Dane, in Southern Wisconsin. The report discussed how Dane County tends to attract large numbers of young people during their late teens (largely due to the University of Wisconsin-Madison) only to lose a large percentage of them after they graduate.

Students interviewed for the report as to why they leave expressed interest in moving to larger urban centers after graduation. The good news, for Madison and Dane County at least, is that many of those same graduates return to settle and raise families during their 30s and 40s.

Do you know the age demographics, including the net migration rate, for your county? Why does it matter?

To answer that second question, here are a few ways the age of customers and residents of your county can make a difference, as described in a small business report for Demand Media:

  • Demographics can help you avoid costly mistakes in your marketing plan;
  • They can help you identify the ideal consumer for your product or service; and
  • Age demographics, in particular, can help you gauge the likely age groups of your future workforce.

Fortunately, there are many tools available to help you study and analyze demographic trends. One is the Net Migration Patterns for U.S. Counties*, which allows you to obtain and graph migration data for up to three U.S. counties at a time.

For example, note in the graph above the widely disparate data for three Southern Wisconsin counties in close proximity:

  • Dane County, as mentioned earlier, experiences a large population influx of young adults and a dramatic loss of people in their mid- to late 20s.
  • Milwaukee County, nearby, sees similar though less dramatic swings.
  • Rock County, also nearby and also a large population center, loses college-age residents, but experiences a dramatic influx of people in their early 30s.

These are just three examples. Pick any three counties at a time for some fascinating comparisons. Knowing this information can help you plan for your next marketing campaign, your HR benefits package, or the best product offering for your customers. Just another tool, among many, for effective planning.

*Winkler, Richelle, Kenneth M. Johnson, Cheng Cheng, Jim Beaudoin, Paul R. Voss, and Katherine J. Curtis. Age-Specific Net Migration Estimates for US Counties, 1950-2010. Applied Population Laboratory, University of Wisconsin- Madison, 2013. Web. February 2015. <>.

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