People are moving to Idaho in droves. But how many, and who, are leaving the Gem State?

·3 min read

One in four Idahoans is new to the state, according to analysis from the University of Idaho.

The Gem State has been the nation’s fastest growing for five straight years. But while people move here, existing residents are leaving.

Nearly half a million people moved to Idaho from 2011 to 2021, found Jaap Vos, a University of Idaho professor of planning and natural resources. In the same period, 295,000 Idahoans moved out of state, resulting in a net population gain of 271,449, according to a news release.

The state’s population was counted at 1.8 million in the 2020 Census and estimated at 1.9 million by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021.

People in their 20s are moving out of Idaho at higher rates than any other age group. Local wages, meanwhile, haven’t kept pace with housing costs.
People in their 20s are moving out of Idaho at higher rates than any other age group. Local wages, meanwhile, haven’t kept pace with housing costs.

Vos reviewed Idaho Transportation Department vehicle registration and driver’s license surrender data. The data likely resulted in an undercount because it doesn’t account for children without driver’s licenses, Vos told the Idaho Statesman. It also didn’t measure people moving within Idaho. Regardless, his main takeaway is that the changing population may be more influential than just the net growth in population.

“We need to talk about change and stop talking about growth,” Vos told the Statesman by phone. “What is way more important, according to me, is that we’re changing so rapidly.”

On average daily in 2022, 180 people move into Idaho and 137 move out, Vos found. According to the data he collected since 2011, Idaho’s net population grew most in 2017. But it changed the most in 2021.

Vos, who’s lived in Boise since 2012, said differences in people’s driving behavior or whether they say hi on the trails are examples of how that change could manifest. He now occasionally hears people honk their car horn, a rarity a decade ago. Though his research didn’t analyze this, Vos said newcomers may bring different educational attainment or political views or attitudes toward local businesses. Their source of income may be different, which could affect housing.

The median income of a Boise-area homebuyer from 2019 to 2021 increased 24.1%, most in the country, according to national real estate brokerage Redfin.

“The reality is we have this tremendous dynamic of people moving in and people moving out,” Vos said. “So if you just look at growth, you’re missing all the dynamics.”

Vos compared his findings with a football game. A 51-48 game may sound much more action-packed than a 3-0 game.

“We’re not in the middle of nowhere anymore. We’re now in the middle of all the action,” Vos said. “We have all these individuals who want to live here.”

People ages 21-30 are leaving and entering Idaho at higher rates than any other age group. In 2011, about 1,000 people in that age group left the state and 2,000 moved in. In 2021, there were 17,000 people aged 21-30 who left the state and 18,000 who moved in.

While the net gain of people has been steady, Vos said the surges in both in-migration and out-migration caught his attention. It showed him how young adults have become mobile.

Vos found new Idahoans are most often in their 20s, 30s and 50s.

Vos’ analysis comes as 71.3% of Idahoans believe the state is growing too fast, according to a Boise State University survey conducted in November. Yet, 60% of survey respondents said Idaho should continue to recruit companies with high-paying jobs even if it means the state continues to grow. And 72% said if they moved out of their home, it’s unlikely they’d be able to purchase or rent a similar home for the same amount.

“I think what people often underestimate is when they just look at growth, they don’t realize that what people feel is change,” Vos said. “You can grow a little bit or you can grow a significant amount. But if you at the same time really change, that is what people feel.”