Ch-ch-ch-changes in Vancouver’s Net Migration Profile by Age

The other day I noticed data on Bloomberg that I hadn’t seen before, purportedly showing millennials fleeing Vancouver.  What the data actually seemed to show was a declining net gain in Millennials, along with a loss of those in the 25-44 age range.  This didn’t match with what I thought I was seeing in the Metro data for 2006-2011, though perhaps it tracks the data for the City of Vancouver (still looking into that).  As is often the case, there is a frustrating lack of specificity about just what constitutes Vancouver, with Demographia affordability measures reflecting the whole metro region, but the City referenced in terms of local policies (and likely migration data).  Then we get an anecdote about someone moving out of Squamish, treated as a “suburb 45 minutes away from Vancouver” and hence reflective of its market.  All that said, I was just as interested in how the piece pointed me toward BC Stats data on population estimates broken down by age (which I’m assuming is where Bloomberg’s data come from).  Which is great!  Let’s play with that data.

The data are different than what we get from the Census.  Based on this document, it seems they are compiled via administrative data sources, including health data and hydro hook-ups.  Other datasets also mention tax records.  At the moment, I’m not certain where the age breakdown comes from, but it’s interesting.  Comparing the population by age estimates from BC Stats with the Census estimates by Census years (2006 & 2011), it would appear that the BC Stats data systematically finds more people overall in these years, especially more young people (ages 0-49, peaking for 10-13% more 25-29 year olds), though slightly fewer old people (age 85+).  Given known census undercount issues, I’m not sure which dataset should be viewed as definitive on this account, but the comparison is super-interesting!  Wish I knew a bit more about where the BC Stats yearly estimates by age come from.

At any rate, I can calculate net migration rates for 5-year age groups using the BC Stats data that run from 1986 all the way up to 2015.  I’m going to ignore adding estimating how many babies we add via net-migration each year, and focus on kids already born.  I’m going to age them forward five years, killing off a few along the way according to 2009 age-specific death rates (averaged across age groups), and I’m going to identify them (this time) by their ages in the middle of the age groups identified at either end of the five year period – on the calculation that this is where most of the migration is taking place.  Here’s what I get, allowing us to compare age-specific net migration profiles for successive five year periods from 1986 all the way to 2015.  (Update: larger image available here)


A few things are interesting here.  For one, I’m still seeing the same pattern, extending beyond 2006-2011, where net migrants at (nearly) all ages continue to enter Metro Vancouver.  Over all periods, the big gain in net migrants comes for university-aged young adults, but extends through thirty-somethings and even forty-somethings.  I certainly don’t see Millennials fleeing the area, nor are we losing our lifeblood, as far as I can see (colored green in all years).

In fact, in the latest period, 2010-2015, the one exception to growth across all age groups, which you can maybe just barely make out if you squint, is a net loss of migrants in their mid-50s.  But even this is an improvement over much higher net loss of those in their 50s from 1997-2011.*  What to make of the turnaround in the net migration of older residents, in their 70s and 80s?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  This may be an artifact of using 2009 age-specific mortality rates, so that it looks like we lost a lot of older residents back in the 1980s and 1990s to out-migration, when in fact they just died more often than estimated.  If so, it’s evidence of real progress in life expectancies at older ages!  But it’s still notable that now there is plenty of room for people to grow older in Vancouver, and they seem to be doing it.


*- comparing to net migration figures from the census, where we don’t see losses of fifty-somethings, I wonder if part of the story about those in their 50s is systematic overcounting of youth and undercounting of older residents in the yearly estimate data (or the reverse in the census data).

7 thoughts on “Ch-ch-ch-changes in Vancouver’s Net Migration Profile by Age

  1. Do you mean immigration or in-migration on your graph? Source is an important component when “flee” claims are made. Example, are 30somethings fleeing if domestic migration is negative but international migration is positive. There are certainly people leaving.


    1. It’s net migration, so combining all in-migration and out-migration. Vancouver is definitely a gateway metropolis, with net international migration driving growth. For the metro area, net Intra-provincial migration tends to be negative, net inter-provincial migration tends to go up and down. Overall, people are definitely leaving, but even more people are coming in. Thanks for reading!


  2. Good work putting this together.

    Could you link to a higher resolution image? I can’t make out the details with the one you’ve posted.


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