Moving Migration Patterns: The Top Inbound and Outbound States

by James SheaNovember 7, 2018

Americans move a lot. It’s one reason that the American economy is so robust and dynamic. According to data from the US Census Bureau, the average person in the United States moves residences more than 11 times in his or her lifetime. That translates to roughly 40 million Americans, or 14 percent of the population, moving at least once during a year.

Americans move for a variety of reasons: A new or better home or apartment, family, current housing situation, to establish own household, or a new job or job transfer. The most common reason for interstate transfers, however, is for a new job or transfer. According to data from the Census Bureau, slightly more than half of the interstate movers said they relocated for employment-related reasons.

Moving Into New House

After World War II, the general migratory pattern in the United States was from the South to the industrial cities of the North. Over the last several decades, the general trend for interstate moves has been people moving from the Midwest and Northeast and to the South and West. The trend is partially due to baby boomers retiring, but also lifestyle trends and economic opportunity.

“The story of the broader migration pattern in the US is from Snow Belt to Sun Belt,” said William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. “That migration has slowed a little bit in the early part of the decade when we were still dealing with the aftermath of the recession, but it’s coming back.”

Each year United Van Lines compiles the trends in moving based on moves the company facilitated. The 41st Annual National Movers Study supports the larger trend of migratory patterns in the United States.

“This year’s data reflects longer-term trends of movement to the western and southern states, especially to those where housing costs are relatively lower, climates are more temperate and job growth has been at or above the national average, among other factors,” said Michael Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re also seeing continued migration to the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West as young professionals and retirees leave California.”

The Top Inbound States of 2017:

1. Vermont

Despite the cold climate and mostly rural setting, Vermont saw the largest difference between people moving into and out of the state. According to United Van Lines’ data, 32% moved out of the state and 68% moved into the state. Part of the reason could be an incentive program. Remote workers receive $10,000 if they move to the state and work remotely at an out-of-state company for a year.

2. Oregon

The land of hipsters and micro-brewed beer is attracting a huge number of people. United Van Lines’ data found that 65% moved into the state and 35% moved out of the Beaver State. Oregon’s population growth puts it on track to add another congressional seat in 2020, and people moved into Oregon from states as far apart as California, Illinois, and New York.

3. Idaho

Idaho is the fastest growing state in the Union, according to the Census Bureau. The state has one of the lowest costs of living in the country and a diversified economy. Idaho saw 37% of movers leave the state and 63% move to the state. Lani Gallimore moved to Boise from San Francisco. “I wanted out of the rat race. I wanted a slower life,” she said.

Other top inbound states include Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Downtown Chicago

The Top Outbound States for 2017:

1. Illinois

A dysfunction political system and limited job market have sent people fleeing the Land of Lincoln. Illinois saw the largest amount of people leaving, as 64% of people moved out of the state and 36% of people moved to the state. “I just felt like I was never going to get ahead in Illinois,” said Sara Niedzwiecki, 30, who moved to neighboring Wisconsin. “Six years of living there proved that.”

2. New Jersey

New Jersey is one of the most expensive places in the country to live, and people are leaving the state in droves. New Jersey saw 63% of people move out of the state and 37% move into the state, according to the United Van Lines’ data, “In many cases, it’s due to the very, very high cost of living in New Jersey, particularly for retirees,” James Hughes, a professor of economics at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Homeowners can cash out of their very expensive home in New Jersey, move to North Carolina and buy an equivalent residence maybe for half the price and pay lower taxes.”

3. New York

The high cost of living and bad weather have sent a steady stream of people out of the Empire state. In 2015, New York had a population of 19.5 million. By 2016, it shrank to about 19.3 million, resulting in a net drop of 186,000 people. Many are headed to sunny California, according to a recent study. United Van Lines data showed that 60% of people moved out of the state, and 40% moved into the state.

Other top outbound states include Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Kentucky.

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About The Author
James Shea
James Shea is an award-winning journalist and author. He owns Media Lab, a content marketing and search engine optimization company is Richmond, Virginia.