Roughly 64,000 Californians have moved to Arizona annually during 2016-2020.

Net migration has long been a key source of Arizona’s population growth, usually contributing much more than natural increase (births minus deaths). As the baby boom generation ages, it will put downward pressure on natural increase and thus make net migration increasingly important.

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Exhibit 1 shows the latest long-term projections from the Forecasting Project for Arizona net migration and natural increase. As the exhibit shows, Arizona natural increase is projected to turn negative (more deaths than births) in the middle of the next decade. Natural increase in Phoenix turns negative at about the same time as the state, while Tucson’s natural increase is already negative and is forecast to remain negative during the next 30 years. Once deaths are equal to or greater than births, net migration is the sole source of population growth.

Exhibit 1: Arizona Net Migration and Natural Increase

Arizona net migration and natural increase

What states send the most migrants to Arizona? And how many Californians have moved to Arizona? We can get a good idea from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Their five-year estimates for the 2016-2020 period show that Arizona drew migrants from every state in the nation (Exhibit 2). It’s also clear that California sent by far the most migrants of any state.

Exhibit 2: Gross Domestic Migration to Arizona by State, PUMS ACS, Five-Year Estimates 2016-2020

Exhibit 3 shows how domestic migrants to Arizona were distributed across Census regions. As the exhibit shows, during the 2016-2020 period 268,461 migrants moved to Arizona each year on average. Most of those migrants came from the West (138,185 or 51.5%), followed by the South (20.6%), Midwest (20.6%), and Northeast (7.3%). The distribution was fairly similar for migrants to the Phoenix MSA and the Tucson MSA.

Exhibit 3: Annual Gross Migration Flows Into Region by Census Region of Residence One Year Ago, 2016-2020

Exhibit 4 shows the top 10 states that contributed domestic migrants to Arizona. During the period, California contributed by far the most migrants to the state, Phoenix, and Tucson. California alone accounted for 23.9% of domestic migrants to the state, 23.3% for Phoenix, and 20.3% for Tucson.

Exhibit 4: Annual Gross Migration Flows Into Region by Top 10 State of Residence One Year Ago, 2016-2020

Exhibit 5 shows gross domestic migration to Arizona, Phoenix, and Tucson by state (and the District of Columbia).

Exhibit 5: Annual Gross Migration Flows Into Region by State of Residence One Year Ago, 2016-2020


George W. Hammond, Ph.D., is the director and research professor at the Economic and Business Research Center (EBRC).