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MAPS: Kansas City Pulls People From The West, Loses Them To The South


Moving to a new place can be hard and exciting. It can be a good decision — or the worst of your life.

Kansas City residents may love the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, restaurants, the Royals, four distinct seasons and summer thunderstorms. But they may also resent the allergies, car culture, crime and the absence of mountains and a coast.

So what makes our city a place people want to live — or leave?

We took a look at migration pattern data from the Mid-America Regional Council, which shows where Kansas City is attracting people from, and where people move to when they leave.

According to IRS records, over the past fifteen years Kansas City’s net population has increased. But we are losing people too. Per the national trend, Kansas City loses people to the southern belt. Cities in Florida, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix. But the research shows that we attract people regionally. Forbes Magazine also published an interactive map that breaks this data down by county.

“We draw from St. Louis, Des Moines, Omaha and other parts of the Midwest. We are a local draw,” Jeff Pinkerton, senior researcher for the Mid-America Regional Council told host Gina Kaufmann onCentral Standard.

He says that this could be because companies have regional offices with branches in the Kansas City area.

Credit Mid-America Regional Council
This map shows migration flow into and out of Kansas City. The blue dots are where we draw people from, and the red shows where we lose people to.

Kansas City also has a consistent draw from Southern California, which is in itself a fast growing area.

“The cost of living is very, very different here. And there are opportunities,” says Pinkerton.

And there is one metro area that we just trade with: Minneapolis.

“We send tens of thousands of people up that way, and they send tens of thousands of people down this way. So the net is almost zero," Pinkerton says.

The Mid-America Regional Council has also been looking at the brain drain and brain gain in Kansas City — the rate at which the city gains and loses people with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“We to have a tendency to add more to that demographic then lose, but it’s very, very narrow. We are kind of 50/50 on that,” Pinkerton says.

Research that monitors population flow to and from metropolitan areas is a valuable tool for cities to see how they compare and compete.

“People vote with their feet,” says Pinkerton. “And if they like the quality of life, they like the opportunities that are in that area, then they are going to go there. If you look at the country some parts are growing, and some parts are not.”  

So the fact that Kansas City’s population is growing says something about how we’re doing. And even though we are losing people Pinkerton says that’s not always a bad thing.

"When we lose folks that consider Kansas City their home and go to other parts, they’re ambassadors in a sense for Kansas City," he says. "They’re spreading the word of what Kansas City has to offer. So all that stuff is just spreading and making Kansas City appear more on people’s radars than maybe it has in the past.”

Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I aim to provide context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. In that role, and as an occasional announcer and reporter, I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.
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