Flyover Country or Bust

greetingsfromatlanta Flyover Country or BustWe all know one—that friend or relative who split New York City recently for the common cascade of reasons: high home prices, high rents, high living costs, high noise, high stress, high, high, high.

And when these people exit our five boroughs, they really exit: City Comptroller Bill Thompson’s office analyzed the Census Bureau’s recent American Community Survey and found that about two-thirds of the 190,150 people age 25 to 64 who left in 2005 moved beyond the city’s metro area. Instead of Connecticut or Jersey or the Island, these emigrants fled to points much farther out.

Nearly one-fourth split for the South, with 14.9 percent settling in Florida and 5 percent in Georgia, especially Atlanta. (And, no, the Florida settlers weren’t all ancient—far from it: over 90 percent were under 65.) Another 4.4 percent went to California. Roughly 36 percent settled in New Jersey or New York.

About 40 percent left big-city life altogether, opting out of the metro region as well as out of those large cities that traditionally compete with New York. L.A.? It claimed 2.6 percent of our people; Boston, even less at 2 percent. Wheezing Philadelphia (motto: Please Let Us Be Your Sixth Borough! We Got Rid of the Rocky Statue!)—claimed 3 percent; San Francisco and Chicago less than 2 percent. Atlanta led all cities with 4.5 percent.

In the end, of course, who went where depends on why. New Yorkers with younger children were more likely than childless people to leave the city, according to the comptroller, and those that left and stayed in the metro region—most of them still work in the city, trading the costs of living here for longer commutes.

It’s a trade-off, apparently, that many of us are willing to partake in this era of the $1.3 million average apartment price. Twice as many people move out of New York City to other parts of the nation than migrate here each year, the comptroller’s office concluded.

Those most likely to stay are in households earning between $60,000 and $140,000 annually—or in ones earning over $250,000. Those likeliest to leave are in households earning between $40,000 and $60,000 or between $140,000 and $249,999 annually. (The city’s median income is around $40,000.)

Other fun facts from the comptroller's report (PDF) about the recent émigrés:

  • About 40 percent had a college degree or higher.
  • The median age was 31.1, compared to 37 for those who stayed.
  • The median individual income was $53,045.
  • Just over 40 percent owned a home in the city.
  • And nearly 62 percent had no children.

Finally, look at the two people on either side of you: In about 10 years, at the current rate of population turnover (not including deaths and births), New York City will lose over one-third of the people living here now. Will you be that one in three?