With all of the negative headlines, no one would be surprised to see people leaving Stockton in droves. But somewhat surprisingly, that’s not the case. According to data recently made available by the US Census Bureau, not only are more people moving to the Stockton area than are leaving, but many of these new residents are younger and educated, just the kind of group that cities across the country are trying to attract.
Bottom line, in the face of a historic housing crisis, record-breaking crime rates and a recession, the Stockton region actually gained people from around the country from 2007 to 2011. Think about that. Despite all of the area’s challenges, Stockton is still attracting more residents than are leaving. The gains are not dramatic, but considering the economic turmoil that has stymied the region since 2007, it’s astonishing that the numbers are positive at all. Stockton’s problems certainly persist, but at the very least, people are not fleeing the area as some may have projected.
The data comes from the American Communities Survey (ACS) administered by the Census and covers 2007 to 2011. Similar ACS data was released last year for 2006 to 2010, but the newest round of data includes information on education and income levels, allowing us to tell a richer story of who is exactly coming and going from any given county in the country (you can access the Census’ nifty mapping tool here). For the Stockton area, here are the main takeaways:
More people are moving to Stockton than are leaving
The Stockton region saw a net migration of about 2,800 from 2007 to 2011 (excluding migration from other countries), which means that there were a few thousand more people that decided to move to Stockton than decided to leave. Many are coming from the Bay Area, with Alameda County accounting for over half of net migrations to Stockton. Santa Clara County—home to Silicon Valley—was second. These numbers show that Stockton’s continuing population increase is not a fluke based solely on people being born here.
Not just the poor
An easy retort to these numbers might be that Stockton’s migration growth is simply an indication that the region is attracting the poor and that those with the means to are leaving the area. However, the numbers tell another story. For household incomes $50,000 and higher (the average Stockton income is around $45), the region saw a net gain of around 3,500 individuals from 2007 to 2011. Further, the data reveals that many higher earners are migrating to the Stockton region from the Bay Area, with Alameda and Santa Clara counties providing hundreds of new, higher-income residents.
College graduates are moving in from the Bay Area
From 2007 to 2011, more people with Bachelor’s degrees moved to the area than left. The same trend holds true for individuals with a graduate or advanced degree. These revelations are important for a couple reasons. First, it partly counter acts the common narrative that Stockton repels educated workers. On the contrary, for whatever reason, nearly 2,800 highly educated individuals moved to the region, which is more than those who left.
Also, the number one exporter of college educated people to Stockton was Santa Clara County, which is somewhat telling given that area economic development outlets have been trying to lure Silicon Valley business to the region for years.
To be sure, while the net migration numbers for college graduates are positive, they are still modest—overall, there were just 97 more college graduates that moved to Stockton than left (somewhat surprisingly, the net migration of individuals with advanced degrees was actually higher). But it is encouraging to see that more educated individuals are choosing to move here than are choosing to leave.
Could the much-vaunted millennial age group be responsible for this uptick in educated individuals? While the new Census data mapper does not break out migration by age, last year’s information indicates that they might be. Census migration data from 2006 to 2010 shows that among the 25-34 age group, Stockton saw a modest net gain in migration. At the very least, young professionals are not fleeing in droves as some may have predicted.
To be clear, the Census data I have examined does not provide migration information at the city level, only the county. It could be the case that Stockton actually has a negative net migration, and that the positive migration numbers are only associated with smaller San Joaquin cities. However, given that Stockton makes up about half of the county’s population, this scenario is unlikely. It should also be noted that the time period for this data does not include 2012, the year that Stockton filed for bankruptcy and suffered through the worst year of violent crime on record, so it’s certainly a possibility that more people have left since then (though data from moving companies shows a relative stalemate).
It’s hard to look at these numbers and not feel at least a little encouraged. Stockton is not a dying city repelling high income earners, the educated, or the young. The region certainly is not a hot spot for these groups, but given the past five to ten years of hardships, the fact that the region’s migration has increased at any rate is somewhat astounding. The reason for the positive migration numbers is anyone’s guess, maybe all of these people new that Google Barge is coming.