Internal Retirement Migration

A third interest shared by population geographers and social gerontologists has been to understand the motivations, patterns, and consequences of retirement migration. Until the 1980s, almost all such moves were within various European countries, the United States, and Australia. The settlement of estranged aristocrats and retired senior soldiers and sailors to coastal resorts and spas was evident even before the railway era. Through the nineteenth-century, the habit slowly spread from the very rich down the socioeconomic spectrum until, by the 1920s, a mass phenomenon was evident in Europe and the United States, particularly in BelgiumFrance, England, California, and Florida. By the 1970s, retirement migration was well established on both sides of the Atlantic in human geography research and teaching.

In the United States, long distance retirement migration developed vigorously during the 1940s, prompting the first commercial handbook guides and academic studies, while in Europe it was halted by World War II. By 1950, St. Petersburg on the west coast of Florida, and St Augustine and Miami on the Atlantic coast, had become fashionable resorts and places of permanent and winter residence for both affluent retired people and, more remarkably, retired black and white domestic servants. ''Then after World War II, the development of the interstate highway system made distant locations much more accessible for vacationers and migrants alike. The changing state destinations can be charted in detail since 1960, because the decennial census counts the number who lived at a different address five years earlier. One of the defining characteristics of interstate retirement migration has been that migrants from all over the nation concentrate into only a few states. Nearly 60% (56% in 1990) of interstate migrants aged 60 or more years go to just 10 of the 50 states, and in all four census decades since 1960, Florida has attracted about a quarter of the total.'' (Longino and Warnes 2005: 538–9)

By 1985–90, however, a dispersal of the favored destinations was clear, both among and within the states. The leading four destination states – Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas – all had lower percentages in 1990 than in 1980, although their ranking was unchanged (Table 1). Although the losses were initially small, the pattern has persisted and grown. Within Florida, housing developments had spread from the initial resort cities, first to form almost continuous coastal urban strips, and then inland. Many other favored destinations attract migrants primarily from adjacent states, for example, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the New Jersey shore, the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Wisconsin Dells. Southern and western Nevada and areas in the Pacific Northwest are all recommended in retire ment guides as good places to retire.