Aug 15, 2022 - News

Where Northwest Arkansas' young adults go

Note: The analysis includes U.S. Social Security number holders born 1984–1992 and measures their childhood locations at age 16 and young adult locations at age 26. Data: Center for Economic Studies, et al., 2022, "The Radius of Opportunity: Evidence from Migration and Local Labor Markets"; Chart: Skye Witley/Axios

The average young adult who grew up in the Northwest Arkansas metro area moved 152 miles away for their job, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau's Center for Economic Studies (CES).

  • That's 29 miles below the national average.

Why it matters: The migration patterns of young people can help us understand regional labor markets nationwide, with comings and goings reflecting where opportunity is, according to a July report by the bureau and Harvard University.

Context: The CES analyzed census migration data for people born between 1984 and 1992, comparing where they lived at age 16 to where they lived at age 26.

  • Yes, but: The most recent available data only gives a snapshot through 2018, and we've seen major changes in the past five years because of COVID-19, the housing market boom, the Dobbs ruling and Arkansas' 2021 LGBTQ+ legislation.

Zoom in: Nearly 70% of young people stayed in NWA, but 2.4% of those who left before the age of 26 moved to Tulsa. Joplin, Missouri, and Little Rock were close behind.

  • Those earning the most and the least tended to move from NWA more often than those earning middle incomes.
  • About 34% of those in the bottom earning bracket and 37% of those in the highest moved from NWA.

The other side: About 3.4% of young adult Northwest Arkansans during the timeframe moved from Little Rock, the largest group to relocate here.

  • They also came from Fort Smith (3%), Joplin (2.1%) and Tulsa (1.7%).

The intrigue: The largest group moving here from states other than Arkansas, Oklahoma or Missouri came from the Los Angeles metro — 1.3%.

Go deeper on issues that may impact young adult migration:

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