Iowans Are Moving Out

Jan 6, 2017

More people moved out of Iowa last year than moved in, according to a study by Atlas Van Lines. Atlas has been following what it calls interstate migration patterns of its customers since the early 1990s. 

Atlas says, in 2016, nearly 57 percent of all moves were people leaving the state.

Liesl Ethington, assistant scientist in the economics department at Iowa State University says the informal Atlas study is backed up by more scientific Census data.

"In this case, they tell the same story. Over the past two years, actually, Iowa has slipped back into looking like a net loser in terms of domestic migration flows."

Ethington says it's important to keep in mind the scale and context of the numbers.

"It's not huge negatives or  huge positives in any given year. Iowa tends to flirt with that break-even state. So some years we're slightly positive, some years we're slightly negative. It just happens that in the past two we're moving more into that negative territory."

Ethington says thinking about solutions means framing the problem correctly.

"We fixate on the Iowans who are moving out, and we try to come up with solutions on how to retain them. When really the bigger problem isn’t keeping Iowans, it’s that other people aren’t moving in."

And getting other people to move in means offering the right jobs.

"One of the areas where we're a little bit worried about Iowa is in the mid-career and higher level positions, maybe better paying jobs. We do tend to do okay with early career jobs, but Iowa's pay levels and the job opportunities as we move up the career ladder maybe aren't as competitive. So it's harder to attract older movers."

In this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Ethington about migration in and out of the state.

Also in this News Buzz edition of River to River:

  • Dave Swenson, professor of economics at Iowa State University, on how the economy will be affected by new minimum wages in certain counties and by Amazon, the online retailer, incurring taxes for Iowa customers for the first time
  • Chris Larimer, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, on the upcoming legislative session and possibilities for the 2018 governor's race
  • Bob Leonard, Special News Editor for KNIA KRLS Knoxville/Pella Iowa, on his opinion piece, published in the New York Times, on why rural Americans went for Trump
  • Patrick Hoye, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau chief, on the high number of deaths on Iowa roadways in 2016
  • Sean Moeller, founder of Daytrotter and creator of the Gas, Feed and Seed Festival, happening in February