Young, single, educated Americans came to Hawaii in droves in the late 1960s. Whether encouraged to “drop out” of society by Timothy Leary or just lured by the islands’ natural beauty, a generation of flower people and peaceniks arrived on these shores at a rate as high as anywhere else in the country.

Decades later, the trend has all but completely reversed. Young, single, college-educated people are more likely to be leaving Hawaii for greener pastures than coming in search of waves and sun.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Friday published a working paper on the domestic migration of the young, single, college-educated population by state. The data isn’t new, but is shown in a new way, revealing trends and patterns on a national scale.

The paper, authored by Justyna Goworowska and Todd Gardner, argues that young, single, educated people are more likely to move around than the general population. But they also argue that the young, single, educated population has exploded from 1 million in 1970, the first census year covered by the report, to 6 million in 2000, the most recent year included. The makeup of that group has changed too, from ratio of 135 men for every 100 women in 1970 to pretty much an even split in 2000 (101:100).

Basically, young people today are more likely to finish their college education and more likely to wait to get married than they did decades ago.

All that lends support to the growing number of young, single, college-educated Americans moving around the country. But it doesn’t tell you as much about where they’re headed and why.

The state-by-state data comes in an appendix table. Each state has a number for each decennial census — the “net migration rate” represents how many people moved into or out of a state in the five years leading up to the census per 1,000 people aged 25 to 39 (the definition of “young”). Negative numbers indicate net outmigration, meaning that more migrants left an area than entered it, in a given period. Positive numbers indicate net inmigration.

Here are Hawaii’s numbers, isolated:

1965-1970 1975-1980 1985-1990 1995-2000
+192.5 +43.1 +39.5 -69.8

Source: U.S. Census Bureau working paper

The net inmigration rate in the late 1960s was among the nation’s highest. Others in that range were Virginia (+220.9); Alaska (+193.2); Washington D.C. (+193.1); and California (+185.9). By comparison, young, single, educated people were fleeing South Dakota (-333.4), North Dakota (-274.4) and West Virginia (-270.4) at a rapid clip.

By 2000, Hawaii was closer to the Dakota end of the spectrum (-282 for North, -215.9 for South) than the young, single, educated magnets like Nevada (+281.8) and Colorado (+157.7).

What happened?

The authors look at trends of migration into and out of cities and found what they termed a “nonmetropolitan turnaround” in the 1970s — basically, “an unexpected increase in population growth in nonmetropolitan territory, to the point where the nonmetro population in the United States began growing faster than the metro population.”

But over time, cities were still the destination for many young, single, educated people. This was how the authors concluded the summary of their paper:

Across the decades, the young, single, and college educated consistently chose to migrate to only a handful of states in the West region and a few in the South Atlantic division. Metro areas around the country, especially those with populations exceeding 2.5 million, were also destinations for the young, single, and college educated — an overwhelming majority of this group migrated to metro areas. These were often areas of out-migration for the total population. Because of the group’s human capital, as well as its potential impact on population growth — both for destinations and origins — the group warrants continued study.

Honolulu has grown since the 1960s and certainly qualifies as a metropolitan area, but doesn’t come anywhere close to the 2.5 million population that the authors say was a real magnet to young people.

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