Bexar County on the Move — Who’s Moving In, Who’s Moving Out and Where

Net migration in and out of Bexar County from other parts of the U.S. The full #dataviz linked here includes Alaska and Hawaii. Tableau map by Lily Casura.

Philip Sheridan, the Civil War general, is famously quoted as saying, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.” (Did he happen to live here in the summertime? Asking for a friend.) Historians indicate that he hailed from Albany in upstate New York, so that might have had something to do with it.

In any case, when it comes to Bexar County, many apparently don’t share the old general’s opinion. More people move into Bexar than move out — and when they do move out, overwhelmingly they tend to move just within Texas, showing a clear affinity for life in the Lone Star state.

San Antonio, the nation’s 7th largest city, accounts for about three quarters of the population of Bexar County. We turned to the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks county to county migration for every major region in the U.S. and to the national real estate brokerage Redfin to learn what the numbers tell us about who’s moving in, who’s moving out, and where they’re going to or coming from. Here’s what we learned.

When Bexar County residents move out, they don’t go very far afield. Travis County (where Austin is located) is the top recipient of San Antonio’s movers, according to Redfin, looking at fourth quarter 2017 data. About twice as many former Bexar County residents end up there as the next two top destinations, Dallas and Houston.

(Those who move into San Antonio are more likely to be coming from elsewhere in Texas too, according to Redfin. See graphic above.)

Taking a look at comprehensive U.S. Census Bureau data, we narrow the view down to what’s provided in the American Community Survey (ACS), 2011–2015, taken in the aggregate. According to those estimates, Travis County is the top recipient of Bexar County movers within Texas, with Harris County (where Houston is located) just slightly behind.

A bit more interesting is who’s moving in to Bexar County.

Of the top 10 places, seven are within Texas — and the other three are from regions of the world including Asia, Central America and Europe. By contrast, the top 10 places people move to when they leave Bexar County are all in Texas, though — Travis County (Austin), Harris County (Houston), followed by quite a few others. (You can see the whole set here.)

Now let’s take a look at who moves where by generation, as those population groups are defined by Pew Research.

Among Millennials who are moving into Bexar County, the top sources of incoming migration are:

  1. Harris County (Houston)
  2. Asia
  3. Travis County (Austin)
  4. Central America

For Millennials moving out of Bexar County, their top four choices are all in Texas:

  1. Travis County (Austin)
  2. Harris County (Houston)
  3. Brazos County (College Station)
  4. Hays County (near Austin)

Gen X Movers

For Gen X-ers moving into Bexar County, the top four places they’re coming from are likely to be:

  1. Harris County (Houston)
  2. Central America
  3. Asia
  4. Europe

For Gen X-ers leaving Bexar County, the top four destinations are all in Texas:

  1. Guadalupe County (New Braunfels/Seguin)
  2. Harris County (Houston)
  3. Travis County (Austin)
  4. Comal County (New Braunfels/Canyon Lake)

Baby Boomers on the Move

For Baby Boomers moving into Bexar County, the top four places they’re likely to be coming from are:

  1. Harris County (Houston)
  2. Hidalgo County (Edinburg and McAllen)
  3. Asia
  4. Central America

For Baby Boomers moving out of Bexar County, the top four places are all in Texas:

  1. Guadalupe County (New Braunfels/Seguin)
  2. Comal County (New Braunfels/Canyon Lake)
  3. Denton County (Near Dallas and Fort Worth)
  4. Travis County (Austin)

The Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation

For Silent Generation members, and those in the Greatest Generationusually associated with World War II, moves are less likely than for any other generational group. However, with those who do move into Bexar County, the top four places they’re most likely to come from are:

  1. Central America
  2. Comal County (New Braunfels/Canyon Lake)
  3. Hidalgo County (Edinburg and McAllen)
  4. Anne Arundel County, Maryland (Annapolis)

For members of the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation who do leave Bexar County, they also are most likely to choose other Texas locations, including their top four:

  1. Comal County (New Braunfels/Canyon Lake)
  2. Dallas County (Dallas)
  3. Kendall County (Boerne)
  4. Travis County (Austin)

One thing to keep in mind: More people still move into Bexar County than move away from it. Census data from ACS for 2011–2015 shows that overall, Bexar County had a net gain of 10,948 during those five years — arriving from other places around the world, within the U.S., and within Texas itself. From within Texas, the numbers were almost more even: 3,483 more people moved into Bexar County from other counties within Texas than left.

Overall, the top 10 states for Bexar County residents to move to other than Texas, which received more than 20,591 move-outs (37.77 percent of the total) of the 54,413 movers by percentage were:

  1. California (9.11 percent)
  2. Florida (5.08 percent)
  3. New York (4.12 percent)
  4. Illinois (3.69 percent)
  5. Louisiana (3.30 percent)
  6. Ohio (3.06 percent)
  7. Georgia (2.68 percent)
  8. Oklahoma (2.60 percent)
  9. Tennessee (2.50 percent)
  10. Idaho (2.14 percent)

It’s worth noting also that between 2011 and 2015 no one moved to Albany, New York, at least according to the American Community Survey. Take that, General Sheridan!

Additionally, there were no reports during that same timeframe of moves to any of the following five states, four of which are in New England — Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont — plus Wisconsin. Among other things we glean from this are that cold winters and lovely scenery are not necessarily enough of a draw for Bexar County residents on the move.

In all seriousness though, it would be interesting to learn what’s behind the decisions to move, when people do move out of Bexar County. Are they improving their quality of life, satisfying some particular aim such as being closer to family, or do they perceive the move to generally be a downgrade, because they can no longer afford where they are? (Of course reasons for moving differ from person to person, and then a bit generationally within cohorts, such as moving to go to school or find a job, versus moving to retire somewhere.)

The reason this comes up is residential mobility in general is often tied to poverty and low educational attainment, as we’ve written about here — and eviction can also be a reason why people move “too” much (i.e., more than they want to, or in a way that disrupts their lives). With just the data we have so far, there’s really no way to know — but those are important questions for the future.

Focused on using data as a tool in research & policy decisions. IWMF grantee. NASW-TX and Tableau Public award winner. UTSA, Harvard honors grad. Ph.D. student.

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