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Growing Idaho by the numbers: Who's moving here, and from where?

Family is a big reason some move to the Gem State. A U.S. Census map sheds light on the comings and goings from county to county.

BOISE, Idaho — Who is moving here?

If you've lived in Idaho for a while, you know lots of people are moving to the area. Idaho was 10th in the nation for population boom just last year, growing by 1.8%. That works out to more than 34,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But where are all these folks coming from? I know most of you have your educated guesses already (California), but let's dive into the numbers.

You can check out a handy heat map from the Census Bureau on migration to and from counties across the nation right here. That’s over a five-year span from 2016 to 2020.

As you might've expected, tons of folks are coming from California. Net migration to Ada County from Sacramento County was 575 people in that five-year span — 652 people moved to Ada County from there, and 67 people moved from Ada County to Sacramento County.

People moving from Orange County, California, increased Ada County's population by 1,023. That's more than any other county in the nation.

That’s not a surprise to most people, but that's not the whole story. Here are some net migration figures from other areas a lot of people left to come to Ada County:

  • Lubbock County, Texas: 553
  • Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix metro area): 394
  • Sandoval County, New Mexico: 275
  • Polk County, Florida: 212
  • Benton County, Washington (Tri-Cities area): 474
  • Twin Falls County, Idaho: 436

Debbi Myers, president of the Boise Regional Realtors, said she's seen similar numbers continue from 2020 until today, with even more people coming from Arizona. But why are people flocking here? Myers says, it starts with the great job market in the Boise metro. But then, there's also a domino effect of extended family following along.

"I think a lot of what has happened in the last few years is we had people come to our area, take a job, and move their families. Typically, younger families start their households up here. And then we have the trailing family members who follow along,” Myers said. “Grandma and grandpa realize that the kids are in Boise, or in the metro area, and they come they visit. They come for Christmas, they come in the summer, and then they move for a lot of reasons. One is to be closer to their family, obviously. But also, they wouldn't come here if it wasn't a nice lifestyle for those people to live, as well."

I know what you're thinking, "What about Canyon County?" It's quite a story, too.

Over that same five-year span (2016-2020), the county that sent the most people to Canyon County was Ada County, with a net out-migration of 3,197 people heading west across the county line.

Among counties outside of Idaho, Salt Lake County in Utah was tops for net migration into Canyon County, with 247. However, three counties in California (Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Stanislaus) added a total of 650 people. 

Folks are also moving out of Canyon County, including up north, to Idaho County (net migration of 221 from Canyon Co. to Idaho Co.), and across the state line to Malheur County, Oregon (191).

Myers said this trend of people moving to more rural spots in Oregon and Idaho is still happening right now, probably even more so. The reason? It's another surprise that's not really a surprise. It's because of affordability.

"The people who are moving out of the metro area tend to be moving to other areas of Idaho. So, they're moving out further, like Canyon County, that area, because of affordability," Myers said. “People can buy bigger, better, newer homes farther out, for the same price they could buy within."

Some of you have also asked how many people have moved in from completely outside the country to Idaho. That number is between 4 and 5 percent of the new population.

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