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For the first time in 20 years, more people are leaving Travis County than moving in

Fog envelopes the downtown skyline
Deborah Cannon
/
KUT News
Historical county-to-county migration data shows people are leaving Travis County for neighboring areas.

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Between July 2022 and July 2023, roughly 2,500 more people moved out of Travis County than moved in. This figure, which comes out of population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week, marks a reversal in population trends over the last two decades.

“I haven’t seen negative net migration to Travis County in a long time,” said Lila Valencia, demographer for the City of Austin, most of which sits in Travis. The last year fewer people moved to the county than left was 2002.

Travis County has long been known for its ability to attract tens of thousands of transplants each year. Despite dwindling migration numbers recently, the county’s population still climbed by about 7,000 people between the end of 2022 and the first half of 2023. The increase was driven by births instead of by people moving here.

The U.S. Census Bureau does not provide reasons for why more people are leaving the county than moving in. But Valencia has several theories — starting with the obvious.

“Austin is not as affordable as it used to be,” she said. Between 2019 and 2023, the median sales price of homes rose nearly 53%. Rent prices also climbed, though at a slower rate.

Valencia said historical county-to-county migration data shows people are leaving Travis County for neighboring areas.

This includes Williamson County to the north and Hays County to the south. In the last half of 2022 and the first half of 2023, roughly 20,000 more people moved to Williamson County than left. Although home prices there have shot up since the pandemic, homes are still cheaper than in Travis County and Austin.

Valencia also said Austin’s changing job landscape may be impacting the county’s migration numbers. Tech companies that have defined the city's job market since the early aughts announced layoffs over the past couple years, although it's unclear how many Austin-based employees have been affected.

While employers in construction and health services added jobs in the Austin metro last year, there were fewer jobs in the information sector. This could explain Travis County's lower migration numbers as fewer people move to Austin for high-paying tech jobs, Valencia said.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at audrey@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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