That U.S. Census Bureau data says so probably doesn’t surprise you.

I-5 traffic

However, the data pokes holes in the narrative that Silicon Valley transplants are the main reason for the Puget Sound’s explosive growth in population—and housing costs.

More of the out-of-state newcomers to King County from 2012-16 were from California than the rest of the top five states combined. Eight of the twenty out of state counties that sent the most people to Seattle are in California.

However, more of the people new to King County were nearby already. Most of the people who moved to King County in the same period already lived in Washington, and the Puget Sound region itself. Together, Pierce and Snohomish Counties sent more people to King County than California.

Also, Southern California sent more new residents to King County than the Bay Area, and Los Angeles by itself sent nearly as much. The five Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo, and Contra Costa) sent 5,158 people. Los Angeles County sent 4,550. The Southern California counties (Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, and San Bernardino) sent 8,542.

The Census Bureau estimates that 143,088 total new residents moved to King County between 2012 and 2016. That number combines people moving from foreign countries, people moving from other U.S. states, and Washington itself.

The data comes from U.S. Census Bureau figures compiled from 2012-16’s American Community Survey (ACS) statistics, which estimate county-to-county migration in each county in the United States. These figures measure only in-migration—the number of people who moved to King County—not net migration, which would account for the combined in- and out-migration.

25 Replies to “Yup, tons of Californians moved to Seattle”

      1. And the certification from the Arts Commission to guarantee that it’s Beautiful. But most important of all: The Environmental Impact Statement!


  1. Only 1,200 from Ohio. That is insanely low, because I am always running into people from Ohio. I suppose it must be a slow, steady stream of people escaping the “armpit of America.” (…my uncle’s terminology – and he still lives there) I would have expected it to be a little higher.

    1. The US Men’s National (“Soccer”) Team has held its World Cup Qualifying matches against Mexico in Columbus Crew Stadium for two decades. It is the only stadium they could find where the could get a home crowd advantage. Coincidence?

      1. Hmmm, not sure. Most Ohio folks – especially around Columbus – are dedicated Ohio State Buckeye fans. I know that Columbus now has pro hockey and soccer (Blue Jackets and Crew, I think), but didn’t know that soccer attracted a major following. Maybe it helps to have a lot of medium sized cities with losing pro sports and/or no sports teams only a few hours away (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Indianapolis), and nothing in the way of scenic beauty, like the water and mountains that we are blessed with in the West.

      2. Actually, Crew Stadium is small enough to sell out the seats to supporters’ groups before the Mexican hordes put it on their calendars.

        When Chivas de Guadalajara came to Seattle for the Champions League match this year, it was hard to tell it was a home match for the Sounders. Same thing happened with previous Champions League matches when the Sounders hosted Monterrey, Tigres UANL, Santos Laguna, and Club America. The Mexican futbol caravans are far larger than anything the “Timbers Army” has ever brought.

    2. There’s a surprising number of people from Florida I’ve met over the years. A lot of them are fleeing religious/social rigidity in their family or city, and it almost seems like they’re choosing Seattle because it’s the opposite corner of the country.

    3. Which city, Engineer? It’s been awhile since I last saw it, but Cleveland was a beautiful place. Parks, museums, and ll. With an excellent light rail system. That grew out of a PCC streetcar line itself part of a massive high rise residential development called Shaker Heights. TouTube’s got some great footage this morning.

      Example I’m always using as good course of action for own ST-infinity system. Ron Tober, Metro’s Transit Manager through DSTT construction came from there. If he hadn’t, Sound Transit would still be nothing but another overdue over-budget still-undelivered deliverable.

      But anatomical reference really places your uncle in industrial history, with a lot of nuances (say that word on the shop floor in Toledo in 1957 and it would’ve been your nickname for life.)

      Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago… .When transit air conditioning was a fan in a swiveling cage,the cosmetics industry was just gearing up to top the defense industry by convincing people you couldn’t get a date if you smelled like you just got off work. And also off the subway, or ‘el, whichever.

      What’s a shop floor smell like now? Rug shampoo? Gigabytes? Paradigms? Memes? Is body wash for company cars or execs? Most dangerous thing about the virtual – you can’t smell it burning ’til its already Ransomwear ™. Do they still use flypaper and swatters for buzzwords, or do they have those purple sparky things?

      ‘Cause here’s classic rust-belt class prejudice personified to a fine polish:

      Liberals will start winning elections when they stop calling themselves Progressives and lose their aversion to the smell of their own sweat.

      However, have pinpointed the reason your uncle knows better than to come to Seattle. At least not ’til he can get a decent corned beef sandwich at any station on LINK. But since he’s your uncle, Amazon tells me their drone is on the way with your order. They’re out of dill pickles.

      Michael’s Diner At Shaker Square
      13051 Shaker Blvd
      (216) 752-0052
      Open ⋅ Closes 10PM Open 24 hours Friday and Saturday
      RTA Red Line


  2. For clarification does the survey exclude students? Are the thousands of Californians who study at UW counted in the total since their place of birth is CA and place of residence is WA?

  3. Ohhh interesting. Including the counterflow migration (people moving from King County to Silicon Valley), King County really only gained a net 244 people from that area…The estimates show 5,158 people from Silicon Valley moving up to King County, and 4,914 people moving from King to Silicon Valley during the same time period.

    Data also showed 17,313 people moved from Asia to King County (no data on migration to Asia).

    1. I think that has been going on for a long time. For about as long as people here have been complaining about “all those people from California coming up here”, we’ve had just about as many going there. We also have a fair amount of natural growth last time I checked (babies), along with plenty net migration from other states, other parts of the state, and other countries.

    2. California will always be a large source because its population is so large and it’s so close. Oregon and Idaho have below-average population so they can’t send many people. Reverse migration to California is a major factor that’s usually overlooked. In the 90s I saw a stat that migration from California and migration to California were about the same — people are always moving down there for college or a job or sunny skies. So RSO’s count is not surprising: it may have gotten a little higher but not much.

      What Seattle does have is a lot of population churn: many people moving in from everywhere and others moving out. Many people stay here only a few years. Most of the people I’ve known over the years are no longer here, and others have taken their place.

  4. Let’s see some more lines, (color your choice): How many people left Seattle on three weeks notice after thirty years’ residence?

    And how many of us let the door leave dust on our pants-pockets when we left?

    And how many of us would live there now on a bet?

    And how many are planning on the next three dozen moves courtesy of the Seattle housing market ’til we drown in the Antarctic Ocean?

    Damn. Can’t get out of the carport. Gotta get the sofa off the roof.


  5. If I’m reading the numbers correctly, there was a net migration out of King county to the surrounding counties in the Puget Sound.

    I think this article would be more informative if it talked more about net migration as opposed to inflows.

  6. So we have this great resource of new residents who have daily lived with rail transit elsewhere. Are we listening to them? Are we instead locked into a local decision-making culture that thinks of out-of-towners as stupid because they don’t “understand Seattle” — even though many understand rail transit better?

    The ST input process is structured with stakeholders who have worked for years at their specific attitudes. Few people can win elections unless they are here 15-20 years. General public input gets tidily placed into a report and summarily forgotten.

    It’s a common problem in any Metro area. It’s just that we’ve chosen to now create an urban rail system — yet created a decision structure that mostly asks people unfamiliar with daily life on rail transit to decide things.

    The best example: Consider how much energy and worry goes into talking about rail as a nuisance!

    Meanwhile, the relatively little things that do matter to a daily rider — more escalators (especially redundancy for out-of-service one’s), protection from rain, time until the next train, number of cars in the next train on signs, access across busy adjacent streets — are deemed unimportant luxuries by people who haven’t ever been a daily rider.

    1. Al S. have you noticed rail familiar newcomers trying to interject their knowledge into our thinking and being rebuffed? Because remember, like Seattle itself as a city, let alone Bellevue, we’re barely getting started on the electric rail system whose tracks and catenary other places have had in place for a hundred years.

      Because as soon as they register to vote, all interested newcomers are welcome to start attending meetings, circulating petitions, and running for office. But you also need to remember that transit building experience and resources varies between cities.

      Our own inheritance in right of way- where every piece of gravel in the track ballast ins a gold nugget- is really stingy. And many rail systems elsewhere run on roadbeds that carried troops in the Civil War.

      Also have a hunch that among urban transit systems worldwide, we’re being ridiculed as an example of what happens when you’re too cheap to pay honest graft to get your elevators. But here’s where the Seattle Transit Blog can provide a valuable service by inviting and encouraging newcomers to comment and especially post, to give us the benefit of perspective and experience.

      Mark Dublin

  7. Well, 11 of those top 20 inmigrant counties are on the top 25 counties in the US by population. And two more of the counties are in Oregon. Those 13 are no surprise. So the 7 smaller, more distant counties left are the ones that need explaining–like Salt Lake County, Tarrant County (Fort Worth) and Denver. Interestingly, these places are all highly touted by the city punditocracy, but clearly some of their residents weren’t so enamored of them.

  8. Leave your cars in CA and you can come. We like you. We don’t like your car and how much you drive it.

    1. Null, have you got some solid numbers for us as to how many of us are stuck behind cars that just changed their California plates, as opposed to those owned by either natives and their whole families, or newcomers from other places?

      Because if they like their cars as much as I like mine, they likewise won’t drive it past the first train or bus terminal they see. But let’s shift the discussion over from driving quantity to quality. When my Chevy rental car cleared the lot at LAX- world record breath release.

      Not only did the highway signage tell me my correct lane five miles before my exit. But I was sharing the road with drivers who could do a zipper-merge by reflex while average driver ahead of my Breda back home would’ve still been concentrating on the buttons on their jeans.

      In the transportation world I’m fighting for, nobody will need to own a car to have a very good life. Or be forbidden to drive a car. But once a year, I will have a State Police instructor observe my car handling for a couple of hours, and if I pass, help pay the cost of a special road system graded, sloped, and curved for driving. Meaning really expensive to use.

      In addition to my taxes providing transit for the normal world, and me if I fail the test, as two thirds of us usually will. No refund. But meantime if anybody reading this wants to cooperate with Null’s request, I’ll drive your car home via the Coast. All I’ll need’s gas money.

      Oh, also! You only get to stay if you tell Seattle Transit Blog every day how bad we’re screwing up. For starters: How many stop signs does a 180′ N-Judah train have to stop at between Cole Street and Ninth and Irving?

      Mark Dublin

  9. The real news in this data is how much smaller the real population change is compared to the wildly inflated Washington OFM “Filled-If-Built” (FIB) data that is based on counting new housing units built, and ASSUMING that they have been filled with people.

    1. How many new buildings aren’t filled within a year? You make it sound like there are hundreds of buildings that remain empty for years.

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