Study Shows Philly’s Having a Hard Time Keeping New Arrivals Here

Many of our largest cities experience "net domestic out-migration" - that is, more Americans leave them than move into them. A new study from the apartment-search site Adobo shows Philadelphia places pretty high on that list too.

Although Philadelphia's population loss due to net domestic migration is small, it raises concerns about whether the city is providing enough affordable rental housing to keep the new arrivals here once they've arrived. | Chart: Abodo

Although Philadelphia’s population loss due to net domestic migration is small, it raises concerns about whether the city is providing enough affordable rental housing to keep the new arrivals here once they’ve arrived. | Chart: Abodo

Depending on the time frame you choose, Philadelphia either just barely misses or just barely makes another top 10 list. And while this list puts it in the company of the nation’s largest metropolises, it’s not one you’re going to find anyone bragging about.

This list is of the American cities that have lost the greatest percentage of residents due to net domestic migration — the number of Americans who move to a city vs. the number who move from it. As the apartment-search site Abodo notes in its report on domestic migration released this week, “So Long to the City,” Americans are a highly mobile people: the average American moves 11 times over the course of a lifetime, according to data compiled at FiveThirtyEight. And as Millennials account for 43 percent of those moving from place to place at present, where they’re moving can have an effect on planning, policy and housing markets.

And so Abodo looked at American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau for the nation’s 50 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) to see who moved where between 2014 and 2015. And as it turned out, the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Camden MSA lost 0.4 percent of its residents due to domestic migration in that one-year period, placing the city 13th among those top 50 MSAs. Above it in the top 10 were all three of the nation’s largest MSAs: Chicago-Naperville-Elgin placed first, with a net loss of 0.84 percent; New York-Jersey City-Newark came in second, losing 0.82 percent of its residents to domestic migration; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim came in sixth, with a net loss of 0.54 percent.

The study also looked at trends over three years. Over that time span, Philadelphia moved into the top 10 at the No. 10 spot, displacing San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., the metro with the eighth-largest one-year population loss.

Abodo Senior Communications Manager Sam Radbil attributed some of the loss to the increasingly expensive nature of Philadelphia’s multifamily housing market.

“Our study shows that people are moving out of Philadelphia faster than they’re moving in,” he said. “Experts have pointed at the rapidly growing cost of housing, which has pushed a large number of residents out and has also prevented new people from moving into the city. Job opportunities are available and the economy is solid, but the housing costs are starting to become an extreme burden to Philadelphia residents and those hoping to move to the city to start their next chapter in life.”

Radbil offered no specific suggestions for ways the city could improve the supply of more affordable units. Which is all right, because that’s something that our local developers and policymakers should deal with themselves. But with most of the new construction action taking place at the upper end of the local market, it’s something that we will have to deal with if Greater Philadelphia hopes to keep those new arrivals from elsewhere here once they’ve arrived.

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