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Who’s moving to Reno? Data finds some surprises


Some of the conventional wisdom about population growth in Reno and Sparks isn’t supported by the facts, finds a recent analysis by the National Association of Realtors.

But the core belief about growth — that immigration from California has been the biggest factor — is most certainly true, the association’s economists found.

They based their findings on an analysis of change-of-address data from the U.S. Postal Service, figuring that those forms are a pretty reliable indicator of where people are moving to and from. The analysis covered March through October of last year.

Californians account for more than half of the newcomers to Nevada, the data found, but they’re not necessarily fleeing to Reno and Sparks from Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Instead, the two California counties that contribute the largest numbers of new residents to Washoe County are Nevada County — that’s Truckee and Grass Valley — and Alameda County, which includes the Oakland and Fremont areas of the East Bay. The Phoenix area ranks third.

The fourth biggest source of new residents to Reno and Sparks?  That would be nearby Lyon County, as folks leave homes in Fernley and Dayton to move to the big city.

And when people in Reno and Sparks decide to move out, the NAR study found most of them aren’t moving very far.  Lyon County topped the list of destinations, followed by Carson City.

Widening the lens to take in all of the state, the NAR analysis found that Texas ranks second behind California as a source of new Nevada residents.  Arizona, Wyoming and Tennessee round out the top five, but none of those states is a big factor.

When Nevadans decided to move out, Arizona and Wyoming are the states where they are most likely to head.  Pennsylvania and Washington rank third and fourth, but they’re not a particularly big deal.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the analysis found that Nevada’s population really didn’t grow much at all during the second and third quarters of last year. 

Once the number of departing residents is subtracted from the number of newcomers, the NAR economists estimated that the entire state of Nevada gained 416 people during six months in the middle of last year.

The biggest population gainers, the study found, were New Jersey and Maryland, perhaps because people were moving to their suburban cities from nearby New York City and Washington, D.C., as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer is a business writer and editor in Reno. In his 40-year career, he has edited publications in Nevada, Colorado and California and written several thousand published articles about business and finance.