Ohio’s loss of population due to people migrating to other states is declining, and last year’s rate was the lowest since at least 2001.
That may prove to be the best news contained inside Ohio’s continued flat growth data, though it is not entirely clear what is driving the change.
During the 12-month period ending last July 1, the state lost a net total of 23,094 people to other states, new Census data show. That was half of the domestic migration loss in 2008 when, during the depths of the recession, the state lost a net of 46,580 to other states.
The latest decline also was 39 percent less than 2012’s loss of close to 38,000.
Every year, the Census Bureau uses vital statistics from states, as well as data from the IRS, Medicare and other sources, to calculate population estimates that determine streams of funding for many federal programs. Domestic migration is calculated from the people estimated to be moving in minus those who are moving out.
Overall, Ohio gained almost 18,000 people during the year ending July 1, 2013. But that anemic 0.2 percent growth was mostly due to 27,004 more births than deaths. People moving in from overseas also helped. The state gained an estimated 15,708 immigrants and has a population of 11.5 million.
Slow job growth, aging population
The most optimistic interpretation of the improved migration numbers is that people leave because they can’t find work, and now, with the improving economy, fewer need to move. On the other hand, it could also be that as the state’s population ages, people are less likely to leave.
Economic research analyst George Zeller said the out-migration of Ohioans is slowing because the economy is recovering. But the recovery has been too slow, he said, and Ohio is still losing tens of thousands of people to other states.
“What we need to do is see some in-migration,” said Zeller, a Cleveland-based consultant to numerous local governments. “The out-migration has slowed, but it has not stopped.”
Zeller pointed to new job figures released Friday that show Ohio’s December job growth was again below the national average. Ohio’s job growth was 0.48 percent in December compared to the nation’s 1.76 percent growth in employment.
He said Ohio has lost 435,000 jobs since 2000, when the state’s economic woes really began.
“At the current slow rate of recovery in Ohio, it’s going to take more than 17 years to recover those jobs we lost,” Zeller said. “We badly need to speed up the rate of recovery.”
Richard Stock, director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton, said the decline in loss of population to other states more likely was due to Ohio’s aging population than to an improving economy.
“Mobility is so much greater at younger ages than at older ages,” Stock said. “So you would expect a population, as it ages, to show less movement.”
And, in fact, Census data show that Ohio’s population is steadily growing older. The state’s median age, for example, was 39.3 in 2012, the latest data available. That was more than 3 years older than 2000, when the state’s median age was 36.2
In addition, the share of senior citizens in the Ohio population is growing as the Baby Boom generation ages. In 2000, 13.3 percent of Ohioans were 65 and older, compared to 14.8 percent in 2012.
Quality of life
While many Ohioans are leaving the state, plenty of young professionals are establishing roots here. Nick Gounaris, 45, lives in Oakwood. He grew up in that established suburb before attending Miami University and University of Dayton Law School.
Gounaris has been an attorney in Dayton for 19 years and is a fan of the area’s quality of life.
“I love the area from the standpoint that it’s easy to get around, and that’s really important for work,” he said. “I know a lot of people who I grew up with that have moved to different cities, and anywhere they go it takes an hour.
“I also have a lot of friends who lived in Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, who moved back to the area to raise their family because it’s a family-friendly place.”
Krystal Warren grew up on a farm and graduated from Graham High School. She played soccer at Urbana University and now works as an assistant athletic director at UD. Her husband works at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Warren has traveled to more than 40 states, and last summer her job took her to Italy as part of the UD women’s basketball overseas trip. She is especially fond of the area’s outdoor recreation and arts scenes.
“The Schuster Center is one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve seen, and I’ve been to a lot of places,” she said. “I saw Wicked at the Schuster and in New York, on Broadway, and I couldn’t tell the difference once you get inside.”
Back to Ohio
Don Bruce, in a 2002 Dayton Daily News article that focused on opportunities for young people, said that he “definitely” was going to leave Ohio. The Wright State graduate student did leave, for a few months. Bruce and his wife joined the Peace Corps and went to Ukraine, but returned to Dayton due to a family medical emergency.
Now they live just south of Columbus and Bruce, 40, is a professor at Columbus State Community College. His wife is a speech language pathologist and they have two young children.
“Columbus has a different feel from most of the other places I’ve been in Ohio,” said Bruce, a Northeastern High School graduate. “It’s a really diverse city and there’s lots of things to do around town.
“I grew up in South Vienna and Springfield and spent a lot of time in Dayton. When I was in Dayton, it was in serious recession. I hear from people now that it’s better, and I hope that it is.”
Bruce said opportunity is vital to attract and keep young people, who won’t hesitate to follow the jobs.
“There’s so much mobility today,” he said. “I had friends here and they sold their house and packed up and moved to Florida. They’re down there starting a restaurant. You’re seeing more of that today.”
Bruce, though, says he plans to stay put.
“It would take a lot to pull us out of here,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like the same Ohio I was in in 2002.”
The Dayton Daily News regularly examines Census data to determine how population changes affect the quality of life in the Miami Valley.