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Demographics beat: Tracing where the neighbors are from

  • Article by: David Peterson
  • Star Tribune
  • April 11, 2013 - 6:43 PM

The paradigm we’ve all been accustomed to for generations has been that of “moving out to the suburbs.”

Who would have guessed that the movement, these days, can be much more frequently sideways rather than outward?

New residents of Scott County, for instance, are three times more likely to have lived before in suburban Dakota than close-in Hennepin, even though Hennepin is by far the bigger of the two.

You can check it out for yourself — for any county in the nation — using a cool new U.S. Census Bureau tool called a “flows mapper.”

You first see whether surrounding counties are net contributors to, or net gainers from, the county you’re curious about. You can check out the whole nation, although the farther you go, the less likely there’s any in-out relationship at all.

Placing your cursor then allows you to see, via a jump-out box, just what the precise numbers have been in recent years.

The page to visit is http://flowsmapper.geo.census.gov/flowsmapper/map.html.

Clicking on Hennepin County — and the county is the smallest unit available — you find out at a quick glance that Hennepin is a net exporter to all the counties bordering it.

But it’s a net importer from lots of counties farther out, including Nicollet County, perhaps because students graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College are returning home for a while or taking an apartment in “the Cities.”

You can also switch categories to find out how movement varies by categories, such as race, sex or age.

When you cut it down to just white people, for instance, Hennepin’s trading relationship with other counties looks different. Suddenly it’s pulling folks in from some suburban counties, for instance.

Bear in mind, though, that this is over the five-year period from 2006 to 2010, which was a tumultuous time: Foreclosures likely led a lot of residents from places like Eagan to lose their homes and settle in rentals closer in.

The “why,” in other words, is liable to be trickier than the “what.”

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