If it’s true that “you can take a girl (or guy) out of New York, but you can never take the New York out of the girl,” then there’s a lot of New York scattered round the country these days.

“For the second consecutive decade, New York’s net population loss due to domestic migration was highest of any state as a percentage of population,” according to a report recently released by the Empire Center for New York State Policy. Based on 2010 Census data, New York lost a net 1.6 million residents to other states between 2000 and 2010, the report says.

Empire State’s Half-Century Exodus: A Population Migration Overview attributes the loss in population to domestic migration outflow as well as a slowdown in foreign immigration.

Robert Scardamalia, a data consultant for the Empire Center and president of RLS Demographics, is one of the report’s co-authors. He says that while there is no one definitive explanation for the population shift, family, job opportunities, retirement, and lifestyle are all factors that might influence decisions to relocate. “New York, like many aging, mature, industrial states, is experiencing a huge transformation; during that time, many have left for that same host of reasons.

The challenge is to maintain a competitive business, social, cultural, and environmental climate that makes the state an attractive place to live and work – an increasingly difficult mission in a global economy with many more competitive players.”

The Role of the Big Apple in the State’s Population Trends

It is often difficult to use a “statewide brush” to understand demographic trends in states like New York that are heavily dominated by one or two large urban centers.

“New York City weighs heavily in most characteristics,” says Robert Scardamalia, co-author of Empire State’s Half-Century Exodus, “therefore, it is often good to separate New York City and the metropolitan area from statewide figures because it can certainly distort the picture.”

For example, while the foreign immigration component of the population trend reflects the entire state, he says, the largest proportion of foreign immigration is in New York City. There are, however, significant pockets of immigrants in other urban centers throughout the state.