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No, there aren’t as many Bay Area transplants in Sacramento as you may think

While it may feel like Bay Area culture is invading Sacramento, that’s not the case.

Sacramento continues to attract waves of Bay Area transplants, while residents of cities such as San Francisco are exiting for a more affordable lifestyle.

ABC10 has tracked rent and migration trends in the Greater Sacramento area over the past year, as the Capitol city experienced culture-shifting changes.

The Sacramento region saw the fastest growing rent in the nation in 2017, and also saw major rent spikes in 2016. The city’s newfound recognition as an upcoming center for arts, culture and food had some locals blaming their new Bay Area neighbors for the rising rent.

Last spring, ABC10 looked into the claims about Bay Area transplants in Sacramento, but found no hard data proving any correlation between the high rent prices and the flood of new residents from the Bay Area. What was discovered instead, is that the city lacks enough housing units to keep up with the flood of new residents and doesn’t build at a rate fast enough to keep up.

Supply and demand is the real culprit behind the high rent prices in the Sacramento region. In fact, a rent study last year found Sacramento to be one of the worst in markets in the country for apartment construction despite the city region being a top spot for people searching for a new metropolitan city to call home.

The majority of people looking to resettle in Sacramento were searching from San Francisco.

While it is true, the new faces you’ve been seeing around town may be part of a young family from the Bay Area or Silicon Valley who were priced out of buying a home, there’s also a lot of movement from residents within the Sacramento area. Some people simply move from Davis to Sacramento in search of a cheaper home, or Sacramento to Roseville looking to leave urban life for the suburbs.

However, ABC10 wanted to take a closer look at the number of Bay Area transplants coming into Sacramento. Although it’s already been established that there isn’t a direct correlation between high rent prices and Bay Area migration, there’s no doubt the Bay Area’s influence is being felt in the city by the river.

Just how many Bay Area transplants have moved into the Sacramento region in recent years?

ABC10 used the most recent Census Bureau data available from 2011 to 2015 to see how many people moving into the Sacramento region were Bay Area transplants during this time period.

ABC10 calculated that on a yearly average, 17,000 Bay Area transplants from Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco came into the Greater Sacramento area during this time. For the purposes of this story, the Greater Sacramento area consists of Sacramento, Placer, Yolo and El Dorado counties.

ABC10 only took note of inbound migration flows and did not calculate net domestic migration, which takes the number of people who moved to the Sacramento region minus the ones who left (outbound migration).

It’s important to note a yearly average margin of error (MOE) of roughly 1,500 for the 2011-2015 time period. This means there could have been 1,500 more or less people per year that migrated into Sacramento from the Bay Area during this time.

If the margin of error seems high, it’s because it is.

“A couple of reasons to keep in mind for higher MOEs,” said a Census Bureau spokesperson. “Migration is a relatively rare event. The ACS [American Community Survey] asks about the place of residence one year ago. Second, sample size varies across counties.”

The Census Bureau uses the ACS to gather migration data which only reaches about two-percent of American households. Due to the small sample sizes, calculations using the Census Bureau data can be unreliable.

ABC10 also contacted DOF demographic expert, Ethan Sharygin, to find out if the department had data from 2016 to 2017 since information for those years were unavailable from the Census Bureau.

Sharygin confirmed the ACS method can be unreliable and used a different method to calculate migration flows from the Bay Area to the Greater Sacramento region. Instead of using Census data, Sharygin used a method based on DMV drivers license address change database.

This method could also miss people who move, and who don’t have licenses as well as those who move and don’t change the address on their license. But Sharygin was able to provide specific yearly migration numbers, which is considered to be more accurate than a five-year average calculation.

Using the DMV method, Sharygin found there were 15,000 people who moved from the Bay Area to the Sacramento region in 2016 and 17,000 in 2017.

Interestingly, the numbers are not a significant difference from 2014 and 2015 migration numbers, which were 14,000 and 17,000 respectively. The data does suggest a slight increase from 2014 to 2017, but is still considered to be “relatively steady migration”.

“Our data currently do not currently support the argument that SF Bay to Sacramento migration has spiked in the last couple years, although the size of the migration flow is robust and there are many more movers from the Bay to Sacramento than vice versa.” Sharygin said in an email to ABC10.

What do all these numbers mean?

If we take a step back and look at the data from both the Census Bureau and the DOF, we can conclude, between 2011 and 2017 a yearly average of roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Bay Area residents moved to the Sacramento region.

As Sharygin noted, the data doesn’t reflect a significant rise in Bay Area transplants from year-to-year.

So, why does it feel like Sacramento is being invaded by Bay Area transplants?

One reason could be that Bay Area transplants have been moving into the Sacramento area at a steady pace for at least seven years, but there have been fewer migrants from Sacramento heading to the Bay Area.

Net migration has grown substantially from the Bay Area in recent years, from about 4,000 in 2014 to more than 8,000 in 2017.

This means, while roughly 112,000 to 119,000 Bay Area transplants have moved into the area in the past seven years, Sacramento residents aren’t emigrating out of the region. Bay Area transplants have slowly grown in number as a whole.

It’s possible we may just now be feeling the impact of their growing presence.

In 2017, the population of the Greater Sacramento metro was about 2.3 million, according to DOF data. In the bigger scope, the number of Bay Area transplants that have settled down in Sacramento are not a major part of the population.

So, while it’s possible the slow growth of Bay Area migrants may be influencing the Sacramento culture, the idea that our Bay Area neighbors are increasingly flooding the area and raising rent prices is simply not proven in numbers.

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