The US Census Bureau recently released data on national subway-to-subway migration trends, showing that subways like Phoenix; Inland Empire, California; and Dallas drew most of its residents from other parts of the country.

While subways in the Sun Belt generally attract the most residents, certain areas in the Midwest also attract residents from other subways in the Midwest. In fact, the best performing Rust Belt cities have already proven that many areas of the Midwest have successfully revived their economies. In particular, smaller urban areas with burgeoning STEM sectors attract the most movers at the state or regional level due to a combination of factors ranging from employment and affordability to urban regeneration efforts.

#1 – Lansing, Michigan.

Lansing, Michigan, was the fastest-growing metro in the Midwest with an average of 7,538 net residents per year due to metro-to-subway migration. The state capital, in particular, received the most Detroit residents, although other subways in the state have also contributed to its growth. Meanwhile, the area’s population exchanges with Grand Rapids, Michigan remained largely flat.

Home to many of the state’s government agencies, the Lansing metro area — also known as Mid-Michigan — is culturally and economically significant. However, Lansing is also a college town: it is home to Michigan State University, as well as many other higher education institutions. Other factors that boost metro employment, such as several large General Motors operations and a robust insurance industry, have also fueled Lansing’s dominance in metro-to-subway migration in Michigan, making it the Midwest’s fastest-growing metro from this source. is.

#2 – Champaign, sick.

Next on the podium was Champaign, Illinois — the Prairie State’s lone entry in the top 10 — winning just under 6,000 net residents per year from other subways. Notably, this figure equates to 2.7% of the metro’s population in 2020 — the largest margin on our list.

As with Lansing, Champaigns’ primary sources of immigration were other subways in the state. Although Lansing got its population growth from several of Michigan’s urban centers, Chicago was by far Champaign’s largest source of population. In fact, the much smaller Champaign metro area gains 6,500 each year from Chicago alone.

In addition to being home to the University of Illinois and Parkland College, which provide a steady influx of young professionals into the metro, Champaign has also benefited from the tech boom: a number of notable startups have started here, and the metro also hosts operations for several Fortune 500 companies, including Abbott, Caterpillar, IBM and State Farm.

#3 – Columbus, Ohio

Columbus was the top-ranked Ohio metro on the list, averaging 5,453 residents per year. And despite losing net population to Cincinnati (which also made the list at #10), Columbus gained residents of other metros in the state, including Cleveland and Dayton.

Like many other entries on our list, Columbus is an important center of education, leading to a high degree of education in the metro. Here, government jobs are complemented by a diverse economy, including finance, defense, manufacturing, and logistics. Six Fortune 500 companies are also headquartered in the city, including Cardinal Health and American Electric Power, further boosting employment — and likely attracting new residents as well.

#4 – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan, reached #4 on our list with an annual net population increase of just over 5,100 people. And while most of its new residents were the result of immigration from Detroit, Ann Arbor differs from previous entries in that it has also grown significantly thanks to out-of-state relocations: New York City and Chicago were the other two largest sources of migration to the subway.

Ann Arbor is also a college town: it’s home to the University of Michigan, the metro’s largest employer with more than 35,000 employees. In addition to education, the auto industry also plays a major role in the metro economy, including R&D and manufacturing centers from General Motors and Toyota. High-tech and biotech are also becoming more prevalent, diversifying the local economy and likely contributing to Ann Arbor’s popularity.

#5 – Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In our ranking of Rust Belt industrial cities that showed the best recovery, Grand Rapids, Mich., took first place – thanks to employment, wage growth and a rise in the number of young professionals. Subway-to-subway migration trends also support these findings, as Grand Rapids received 4,473 net residents per year, mostly from other Michigan subways.

Grand Rapids in particular stands out in our top 10 for its economy, which is still primarily dependent on manufacturing. To that end, the subway has successfully made the difficult transition to adapt to modern production methods in fields such as automotive, aviation, and consumer goods, with furniture still being one of Grand Rapids’ main exports. Meanwhile, healthcare, agribusiness and information technology are also becoming increasingly important in the local economy.

#6 – Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa, got 4,372 net residents per year, reaching #6 on our list. The state capital demonstrated itself as a hot spot within the state as the majority of the population influx came from other Iowa subways.

Des Moines has a history as a major center of the insurance industry, with many insurance companies emerging from the metro or at least having a significant presence here. Technology has also become increasingly important lately, with giants such as Facebook, HP and Microsoft all establishing their operations in Des Moines. And the subway’s status as the cultural and entertainment heart of Iowa likely contributed to its population influx as well.

#7 – Lincoln, Neb.

Lincoln, Neb., was another state capital that was the state’s only entry. Lincoln’s net 4,012 residents per year are largely attributable to relocations from Omaha, Neb., and Grand Island, Neb. In addition, these new residents offset the trickle of Lincolnites to out-of-state destinations such as Kansas City and Denver.

Lincoln’s economy encompasses a standard mix of services and manufacturing in the Midwest, although the University of Nebraska also makes a significant contribution by providing both a well-trained workforce and metro employment. Other industries — such as telecommunications and finance — provide further economic diversification, and the expansion of technology within the metro has led it to be considered part of the Midwest’s burgeoning “Silicon Prairie.”

#8 – Lafayette, Ind.

Lafayette, Ind., got 3,820 net residents per year – enough to give it the title of 8 . to giveeFastest growing metro in the Midwest by immigration. This annual gain also represented 1.7% of the metro’s total population – the second largest of all the top 10 metros and surpassed only by Champaign, Ill.

Lafayette is another subway that relies on the benefits of higher education institutions. One such metro-based institution is Purdue University, which is attended by approximately 50,000 students each year and provides jobs in the area. This is also complemented by other colleges (such as Ivy Tech) and the result is a well-educated workforce benefiting local businesses, mainly active in manufacturing, automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

#9 – Dayton, Ohio

Achieving an average of 3,262 in net population per year through subway interchanges, Dayton, Ohio earned the ninth spot on our list. Notably, the area’s positive population influx relies on smaller metros in the region, as it loses 1,000 net residents to Cincinnati, Ohio — the next entry on our list.

Dayton is an important manufacturing and logistics hub, with companies active in industry, aerospace and defense, among others. However, the metro’s economy is also diversified into insurance and health care, in addition to the government employment opportunities provided by its status as the seat of Montgomery County.

#10 – Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati, Ohio, rounded out the list with 2,390 net residents gained annually — mostly from other subways in the state, such as Dayton and Columbus, but not enough to top them.

Cincinnati is another Midwestern success story in economic adjustment and diversification, making it one of the largest economic centers in the region. Its status as the largest metro in Ohio means it is also a cultural and educational center, likely encouraging the influx of population from other parts of the state. The metro’s economic importance is further underlined by the Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, the most important of which is Procter & Gamble.

Overall, subway-to-subway migration trends at the national level are likely to continue their southward and westward movement. However, college towns with diversified economies — like the ones on our list — can still experience population growth from relocations due to relative affordability; opportunities for education and work; and adapting to the needs and wants of Millennials and Generation Zers who want to settle in.


  • We looked at migration between metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, as determined by the US Census Bureau, with the 10 metros in the US Midwest getting the most residents per year in this way. For clarity and brevity, we have used the usual metro names instead of the official census names for the metro areas.
  • The annual net population increase is calculated by subtracting the number of inhabitants lost to other metros between 2015 and 2019 from the number of inhabitants gained from other metros between 2015 and 2019.
  • The percentage growth in the number of inhabitants due to immigration has been calculated based on the population figures of 2020.
  • Metro to metro migration estimates for 2015-2019 were released by the US Census Bureau in September 2021.
  • Non-internal migration, as well as migration to or from places that are not part of a metropolitan area, were excluded.
  • For each of the top 10 metros, the top three sources for metro migration and the top three destinations for metro migration were highlighted.