Midwestern subways gain most residents through in-migration

The US Census Bureau recently released data on national metro-to-metro migration trends, which showed that subways such as Phoenix; Inland Empire, California; and Dallas attracted the most residents from other parts of the country.

However, while the Sun Belt subways attract the most residents overall, some areas of the Midwest also attract residents of other Midwestern subways. In fact, the best performing cities in the Rust Belt have already proven that many areas of the Midwest are successful in revitalizing their economies. Specifically, small metropolitan areas with budding STEM sectors attract the most people moving state or region level due to a combination of factors, ranging from employment opportunities and affordability to urban renewal efforts.

# 1 – Lansing, Michigan.

Lansing, Michigan, was the fastest growing metro in the Midwest with an average of 7,538 net residents gained per year from metro-to-metro migration. Notably, the state capital gained the most residents from Detroit, although other state subways also contributed to its growth. Meanwhile, the region’s population exchange with Grand Rapids, Michigan, has remained largely flat.

Home to many state government institutions, the Lansing metro area – also known as Mid-Michigan – is culturally and economically important. However, Lansing is also a college town: it is home to Michigan State University, as well as many other institutions of higher education. Other factors boosting metro employment, such as several major General Motors operations and a robust insurance industry, also boosted Lansing’s dominance in metro-to-metro migration within Michigan, resulting in made the fastest growing metro in the Midwest from this source.

# 2 – Champaign, Ill.

Next on the podium was Champaign, Ill. – the prairie state’s only entry in the top 10 – which has earned just under 6,000 net residents per year from other subways. Notably, that figure equates to 2.7% of the metro’s population in 2020 – the largest margin on our list.

Similar to Lansing, Champaign’s main sources of immigration were other state subways. However, while Lansing drew its population growth from several urban centers in Michigan, Chicago was by far the largest source of Champaign’s population. In fact, the much smaller metro area of ​​Champaign has earned 6,500 annually in Chicago alone.

In addition to being home to the University of Illinois and Parkland College, which provide a constant influx of young professionals into the metro, Champaign has also benefited from the tech boom: a number of notable startups have started here, and the metro Also hosts operations for several Fortune 500 companies, including Abbott, Caterpillar, IBM and State Farm.

# 3 – Columbus, Ohio

Columbus was the highest-ranked Ohio metro on the list, gaining a net population of 5,453 residents, on average, each year. And, despite the net population loss to Cincinnati (which was also on the No. 10 list), Columbus gained residents from other subways in the state, including Cleveland and Dayton.

Similar to many of the other entries on our list, Columbus is a major educational hub, leading to a high level of tuition on the metro. Government jobs here are complemented by a diverse economy, which includes finance, defense, manufacturing, and logistics. Six Fortune 500 companies are also headquartered in the city, including Cardinal Health and American Electric Power, which creates more job opportunities – and likely attracts new residents as well.

# 4 – Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, reached fourth on our list with an annual net population gain of just over 5,100 people. And, while most of its new residents were the result of immigration from Detroit, Ann Arbor differs from previous entries in that it has also grown significantly through out-of-state relocations: New York and Chicago were the two other major sources of migratory influx to the metro.

Ann Arbor is also a college town, home to the University of Michigan, the metro’s largest employer with more than 35,000 workers. Besides education, the auto industry also plays an important role in the metro economy, housing the R&D and manufacturing centers of General Motors and Toyota, among others. High technology and biotechnology are also increasingly prevalent, diversifying the local economy and possibly contributing to the popularity of Ann Arbor.

# 5 – Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In our ranking of Rust Belt’s industrial cities with the best recovery, Grand Rapids, Michigan took the top spot – thanks to its job opportunities, wage growth and an increase in the number of young professionals. . Subway-to-metro migration trends also support these results, as Grand Rapids gained 4,473 net residents per year, mostly from other Michigan subways.

Notably, Grand Rapids stands out in our top 10 thanks to its economy, which still relies primarily on manufacturing. To this end, the metro has successfully gone through the difficult transition to adapt to modern manufacturing methods in areas such as automobiles, aviation and consumer goods, with furniture still being one of the main exports. of Grand Rapids. At the same time, health care, agro-industry and information technology are also gaining importance in the local economy.

# 6 – Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa, gained 4,372 net residents per year, reaching 6th on our list. The state capital has proven to be a hotspot within the state, as the majority of its influx of people has come from other subways in Iowa.

Des Moines has a history as a major center of the insurance industry, with many insurance companies originating from the metro or at least having a significant presence here. Technology has also gained prominence in recent times, with giants such as Facebook, HP, and Microsoft all relocating to Des Moines. And, the subway’s status as the cultural and entertainment heart of Iowa has also likely contributed to its influx of people.

# 7 – Lincoln, Neb.

Lincoln, Neb., Was another state capital for being the only entrance to its state. The 4,012 net Lincoln residents earned per year can primarily be attributed to relocations from Omaha, Neb., And Grand Island, Neb. Plus, these new residents have cleared the trickle of Lincolnites to out-of-state destinations, such as Kansas City and Denver.

Lincoln’s economy includes a standard mix of Midwestern service and manufacturing, although the University of Nebraska is also a major contributor, providing both an educated workforce and subway jobs. Other industries – such as telecommunications and finance – offer further economic diversification, and the expansion of technology in the metro has led to it being viewed as part of the booming “Silicon Prairie” of the Midwest.

# 8 – Lafayette, Ind.

Lafayette, Indiana, earned 3,820 net residents per year – enough to grant it the title of 8e– The fastest growing Midwestern subway thanks to in-migration. This annual gain also represented 1.7% of the total metro population – the second largest among all of the top 10 subways and surpassed by only Champaign, Ill.

Lafayette is another metro that relies on the services of higher education institutes. One of those institutions in the metro is Purdue University, which welcomes around 50,000 students each year and provides employment opportunities in the area. This is also complemented by other colleges (like Ivy Tech) and the result is an educated workforce that benefits local businesses, which operate primarily in the manufacturing, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries.

# 9 – Dayton, Ohio

Gaining an average of 3,262 net residents per year through interchange between subways, Dayton, Ohio, was ninth on our list. Notably, the positive influx of people to the area relies on smaller subways in the area, as it loses 1,000 net residents to Cincinnati, Ohio – the next entry on our list.

Dayton is a major manufacturing and logistics hub, with companies operating in industry, aeronautics and defense, among others. However, the metro’s economy has also diversified into insurance and health care, in addition to government employment provided by its status as the seat of Montgomery County.

# 10 – Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio, closed the list with 2,390 net residents earned each year – mostly through other state subways, like Dayton and Columbus, but not enough to rank above them.

Cincinnati is another Midwestern success story in economic adjustment and diversification, making it one of the region’s largest economic centers. Its status as Ohio’s largest metro means that it is also a cultural and educational center, likely encouraging an influx of people from other parts of the state. The economic importance of the metro is further emphasized by the Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, the largest of which is Procter & Gamble.

Overall, national metro-to-metro migration trends are likely to continue to move south and west. However, college towns with diverse economies – such as those on our list – may still experience population growth due to offshoring due to relative affordability; educational and employment opportunities; and adapting to the needs and wants of Millennials and Gen Zers looking to settle down.


  • We looked at migration between statistical metropolitan areas in the United States as determined by the US Census Bureau, highlighting the 10 subways in the US Midwest that earn the most residents per year in this way. For the sake of clarity and brevity, we have used common metro names in place of the official census names for metropolitan areas.
  • The net annual population gain is calculated by deducting the number of residents lost to other metros between 2015 and 2019 from the number of residents gained in other metros between 2015 and 2019.
  • The annual percentage growth of residents with an immigrant background has been calculated based on the 2020 population figures.
  • Metro-to-metro migration estimates for 2015-2019 were released by the US Census Bureau in September 2021.
  • Non-internal migration, as well as migration to or from places that are not part of a metropolitan region, have been excluded.
  • For each of the top 10 metropolises, the three main sources of in-migration to the metropolis and the three main destinations of in-migration outside the metropolis were highlighted.
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