EBR loses more residents than it gained from 2007-11

People move. To and fro. In a span of five years, more residents left East Baton Rouge Parish than moved in, but the news isn’t all bad. The new residents were better educated and made more money than those who left.

Between 2007 and 2011, East Baton Rouge Parish lost an estimated 1,463 more residents than it gained, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday on national county-to-county migration patterns.

Nevertheless, East Baton Rouge Parish gained nearly twice as many graduate and professional degree-holders than it lost, attracting several hundred more people than it lost with an annual household income in the $100,000 or above range.

“I think this is good news to keep the local economy strong,” said William Daniel, chief administrative officer to East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden.

Daniel said he expects that trend to continue. “We feel like we’re going to be attracting more higher-income residents,” he said. “That’s a reflection of our success in recruiting better paying jobs.”

The report shows that those who left East Baton Rouge Parish were more likely to fall in the $50,000 to $79,999 per year household income range. Nearly 40 percent had only a high school diploma, while another third had some college experience but no bachelor’s degree.

Many of those who left East Baton Rouge Parish moved to other parishes in Louisiana, including its neighbors. Others set out for Texas, Alabama and Florida.

Though a potential blow to overall growth, the trend isn’t new, and many of the movements mirror a national trend of people eschewing big cities for suburbs.

“The story is pretty much unchanged. People are being drawn out of the parish to other portions of the metropolitan area,” said LSU sociologist and demographer Troy Blanchard.

“Those areas just continue to grow at a rapid pace.”

East Baton Rouge Parish most often sent residents to Livingston, Orleans, West Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes, while gaining people from Jefferson, Acadia, Rapides and Pointe Coupee parishes.

At the other end of the trend, East Baton Rouge Parish also saw people apparently leaving for bigger cities. Thousands left for Orleans Parish and Harris County, Texas, home to Houston.

And a handful of people left East Baton Rouge Parish for far-flung places such as Imperial County, Calif.; Sanders County, Mont.; and Tuscola County, Mich.

The migration figures, based on the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011, compared county of current residence to the county of residence a year before. According to those findings, nearly 17 million people across the country had moved to a different county within a year during that time.

“Essentially, there seems to be more movement out of counties with cities and into neighboring counties, a common occurrence,” the summary report states, indicating a national trend similar to East Baton Rouge’s.

East Baton Rouge Parish saw an influx of about 1,575 people from other countries, but a corresponding figure, showing how many people left the parish to move abroad, isn’t reported due to the Census’ focus on the U.S.

Daniel said the report shows some bright spots for the parish, despite the net loss to other areas in Louisiana.

“Obviously, we hope that we never see anyone leave the parish, but it’s inevitable,” he said. “People move around, and those parishes are developing their own jobs and local economies, so I think it’s natural to see people move.”

Blanchard said those leaving the parish for neighboring parishes, including Livingston, West Baton Rouge and Ascension, have often done so out of concerns over schools or crime. Many still commute to Baton Rouge for work.

“Historically, the households that have been moving out have tended to be younger families with children,” he said. “All young families with kids want the same two things: a safe place to raise their kids and a good school to send them to.”

Blanchard said Baton Rouge was struggling with crime during the 2007 to 2011 time period the report covers, and that could have pushed some families to move away.

“That was at the height of East Baton Rouge’s recognition for the crime problem,” he said.

He said future reports may better reflect more recent crime trends. East Baton Rouge Parish saw a 22 percent decrease in homicides from 2012 to 2013, which law enforcement officials have attributed to new crime-fighting techniques.