Note: This post has been updated to correct some inaccuracies with the data in the original. Please see the Comments for details. -BCR
As a relatively recent transplant to the Triangle, I'm still fascinated by what factors into new residents' decisions on where to live in our geographically dispersed region. As I've pondered this question, I've often come back to David Rollins' casual anecdote on a listserv a few months back stating that most of his co-workers coming in from Manhattan and Brooklyn chose Durham while the suburbanites fled to Cary.
This has never surprised me as a concept; after all, a person more familiar and comfortable with life in the big city would more likely prefer the environs of Brightleaf Square and Ninth Street to, say, Triangle Town Center or the US 70 strip out in Clayton. (Or at least that's the calculus my wife and I made when leaving Harvard Square for North Duke Street a few years back.) But I've never had any data to back up what's been just a strong supposition.
Well, I wonder no more, thanks to an interesting little web site:
(Note: Click the image to open a larger version in a new window.)
This graph shows relative in-migration patterns from other US counties to Durham County relative to Wake County between 2000 and 2005, looking at a large number of non-N.C. counties that saw some of the greatest exoduses to Wake & Durham Counties over the five year period. The percentage shown represents the overweighting or underweighting of migration to Durham versus Wake. This measures trends in whether newcomers from different parts of the US find Durham more or less attractive than Raleigh. (For example, look at Orange County Fla. above. Of the 933 Orlandoans moving from that county to either Wake or Durham in the 2000-2005 period, 14.4% moved to Durham instead of the 23.8% that would be predicted strictly by relative county populations, presenting the underweighting factor of 60% seen above. Got it? Good!)
In this graph, the counties in red saw Wake outdraw Durham as these new residents' home in numbers disproportionate to the difference in sizes of the counties. The green counties may have seen Wake draw more of these transplants than Durham in nominal numbers (Wake is more than three times Durham's size), but Durham still drew more than its proportionate share of these new residents, suggesting transplants from these areas tended to find Durham more attractive as a new home.
What's fascinating about these data is that they fairly confirm the urban vs. suburban differentiation that I, and I think many others, have tended to hold about our two counties. We may be one Triangle -- but we appeal to different backgrounds and expectations of life in vastly different ways. Some highlights:
- New York City: Manhattan and Brooklyn all fall squarely in the Durham column, as does Essex County, NJ (home to The Oranges and Newark along with more suburban communities). On the other hand, suburban destinations like Westchester NY, Fairfield CT, and Middlesex NJ fell to Wake. Queens split down the middle, more or less.
- Boston: Durham did well with the Hub of the Universe, disproportionately drawing transplants from Suffolk and Middlesex counties, which include the core of Boston and left-leaning communities like Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, and Lexington. We didn't do as well with Worcester County, the more suburbanized 'burb in the state's midsection. Wake County drew 348 residents from "Woostah" -- Durham just 17.
- Central Florida: Ahh, the I-4 corridor, home to Karl Rove's political barnstorming to capture votes from all the subdivision cavedwellers lurking between Orlando ("The City Homicidal") and Tampa ("Dismay by the Bay"). No shock here: Central Florida half-backs leaned heavily to Wake County. As an escapee of the soulless Orlando metro area, I say to Wake Forest and Holly Springs, you can have 'em. Miami, meanwhile, is solidly Durham.
- Atlanta: This is one of my favorites. The counties generally considered "core" to Atlanta, DeKalb and Fulton -- racially and socioeconomically diverse and denser communities -- fall fairly squarely on the Durham side of the house. Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, on the other hand, are pretty clearly Wake strongholds. Ahh, Cobb County, one of the conservative backwaters of Atlanta, whose school board most recently waged a four-year fight at taxpayer expense to keep "evolution is just one theory" warning stickers on evolution textbooks. Once again, Cobb County residents: When you take I-85 to the Triangle and reach Durham, please keep on driving, guys! Have you thought of Fuquay-Varina?
All in all, Durham does quite well with America's cities -- residents of Chicago, DC, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Houston seem to feel more at home in Durham than Raleigh. On the other hand, upstate New Yorkers and the conservative Tidewater region of Virginia head home to Wake County. (In case you're wondering, Johnston County's big out-of-state draw was Long Island, NY. No surprise there.)
I'd take these numbers and this kind of migration pattern any day of the week.