A Science for Everyone, Community, Demography

Measuring Migration

When you work with Census data, migration numbers can be very precise – but the 10 years between each Census often make the data obsolete.  As demographers, we had to find ways to work around that – and U-Haul had the websites that let me better understand and explain migration.

For example, if I price renting a 15’ truck in Bakersfield, California, heading to Eureka, Montana, I get a price quote of $5,173 today.  On the other hand, it costs $1,109 to rent the same truck in Eureka and drive it to Bakersfield.

If I want to see beautiful Bend, Oregon in the rear view mirror of my 15’ rental truck, the website tells me the trip to Eureka, MT is $3,052.  Renting the same truck in Eureka, to go to Bend is only $654.

I didn’t learn to abuse U-Haul’s website in a classroom – I got the general idea while riding a bus seated alongside a very successful retarded guy.  He made a living riding the bus – back then there was a pass that was good for six months travel in country – and then driving a car or small truck back to Denver.  He may not have completed high school – but he gave me the foundation of a method to quantify migration.  Obviously, Bakersfield and Bend have more people trying to leave, and Eureka has more inmigration. 

If we look at the trip from Minneapolis to Eureka, it’s $1,703.  Eureka to Minneapolis is $1,362.  Park City, Utah showed up as $990 to Eureka, while Eureka to Park City was $495. 

It provides a better feel for migration in central locations like Park City – where you can go in any direction.  You can’t go north from Eureka in this time of Covid – and you can’t drive west from California.  Still, it gives data in something resembling a ratio – the challenge the rental truck industry has is getting the trucks from destination locations (inmigration) back to the places they came from (outmigration) without hiring my friend with the Greyhound pass.

TaxFoundation.org gives last year’s data, and it is massaged and compiled from more moving companies.  Guess what?  The top destination state (inmigration) is Idaho – and Idaho has a lot of similarities to western Montana.  Oregon was a destination state – and still needs the rental trucks from Eureka to keep things going.  I think the last person renting a truck to leave New Jersey might want to turn the lights off as he or she pays the last toll to drive out.

I’ve rented U-Haul trucks a couple of times – but the company has provided me a lot of comparative data on migration during my career.  It’s still science, and it’s still numbers driven. 

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