Where are North Carolina’s newest residents moving from?

By Phillip Joonbae Gong

Chapel Hill, NC – The majority of North Carolina’s growth over the past few decades has been from net migration, meaning more people moved here than moved away. We last looked at migration to North Carolina in June 2021, and wanted to see how things have changed over the past year.

Where are our new residents moving from?

Nearly 366,000 individuals moved to North Carolina in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Most of those individuals – 324,500 or 89% of all in-migrants – moved to North Carolina from another state. (Note: this also includes 960 in-migrants from Puerto Rico.) Top states were:

  • Florida (36K)
  • New York (33K)
  • Virginia (30K)
  • South Carolina (23K)
  • California (23K)

According to the estimates, no one moved to North Carolina from Nebraska in 2021 (We should say: it is likely that someone moved, but because the number is quite small across the state, they were not captured in the American Community Survey’s sample).

Map: Carolina Demography  Source: 2021 American Community Survey, IPUMS-USA  Get the data  Created with Datawrapper

What countries do people move to North Carolina from?

The remaining 41,500 or 11% of in-migrants to North Carolina in 2019 moved here from another country. Relative to years past, foreign immigration has taken a slight downturn.  This trend is likely due to residual limits on foreign migration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Top countries for 2021 were:

  • Mexico (7.0K)
  • Honduras (2.4K)
  • India (2.0K)
  • South Korea (1.9K)
  • China (1.3K)

Many of the individuals moving here from other states and countries are NC-born individuals moving back to the state. About one in every six migrants to North Carolina in 2021—60,900 individuals—was born in North Carolina.

Who is returning to NC?

Among the top-sending states, in-migrants from neighboring South Carolina were the most likely to be NC-born (24%) while in-migrants from New York (6%) were the least likely to be NC-born. Among the top-sending countries in 2019, in-migrants from Mexico (25%) and South Korea (24%) were the most likely to be NC-born. In-migrants from Honduras (4%) and India (3%) were the least likely to be NC-born.

Source: American Community Survey, IPUMS-USA


Carolina Demography is an applied demography group located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.