Why Are People Moving?
Population decline is common in states and countries around the world. Several factors contribute to population decline, including people searching for jobs or a lower cost of living in other states. Population rates have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Americans are moving in rapid numbers. In a study by the moving company United Van Line, employment was the number one reason for moving between states, with about a third of respondents citing this as their main motivation. About 32% of movers were doing so to be closer to family. This is a trend that has been motivated by the isolation felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Forbes study found that the final third of movers were motivated by worsening weather and climate change.
Additionally, as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement, many are moving to the South for warmth and cost savings. Because of this, Florida has one of the most rapidly growing populations.
Businesses that face high taxes, labor costs, and a shortage of workers move to states with more favorable business conditions. When these businesses leave a state, they take their jobs with them, attracting more people to their new locations.
Some research indicates that taxes, especially property taxes and income taxes, influence people’s moving decisions. Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming are attractive for tax-conscious citizens because they do not levy a personal income tax. Additionally, those who are concerned about the burden of property taxes will want to stay clear of New Jersey (2.49%), Illinois ((2.27%), New Hampshire (2.18%), and Connecticut (2.14%), the four states who property taxes above 2%.
Population decline has several adverse effects on a population. When skilled workers leave a state, economic growth can slow due to a change in productivity. Additionally, significant population loss threatens states' representation because seats in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College are tied to state population.
States People are Leaving
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-third of states saw their population decline in 2021 from the previous decade. While some of this population decline can be attributed to increased death due to COVID-19, much of it has been driven by people moving from the state. Below are the ten states that experienced the greatest population loss due to moving in the last year according to the United Van Line National Movers Study.
1. New Jersey
New Jersey had 70.5% of moves away from the state compared to moves into the state. Around a third of the people surveyed said that were leaving New Jersey because they were retiring.
Illinois saw 67.2% of its moving coming from those leaving the state in 2021. The reasons were fairly split between wanting to be closer to family, new employment opportunities, and retirement. It was also named the least tax-friendly state for middle-class families, which also could have influenced decisions to leave the state.
3. New York
A mass exodus of New York City residents during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to 63.1% of moves leaving the state in 2021. People wanted to leave cramped apartments and have more space. Again, wanting to be closer to family and retirement were major reasons for people choosing to move out of New York.
60.1% of the moves in Connecticut were made by those leaving the state. Movers cited the winter weather, high taxes, expensive housing, and high property taxes as reasons for their choice to leave the state. Retirement is also a major factor as Connecticut is one of the few states that tax Social Security and other retirement income.
High taxes—especially gasoline taxes— may have contributed to 59.3% of the 2021 moves in California to be from those moving away from the state. About 35% of survey respondents cited a desire to be closer to their families for being their main reason for leaving, however.
As previously mentioned, the cost of living is a significant factor in why people move out of a state. Of the top five states that saw more people moving out than in, New York, Connecticut, and California are among the ten states with the highest cost of living in 2022.
Top 20 States People Are Leaving (2022)
|Rank||State||Moves That Leave State||Rank||State||Moves That Leave State|
Top 20 States People Are Moving To (2022)
|Rank||State||Moves In from Out of State||Rank||State||Moves In from Out of State|
|20||Georgia||53.5%||10 (tie)||Rhode Island||59.1%|
|14||Maine||57.9%||03 (tie)||West Virigina||63.0%|
|13||North Carolina||59.0%||03 (tie)||South Carolina||63.3%|
|10 (tie)||Delaware||59.1%||02||South Dakota||68.8%|
|10 (tie)||District of Columbia (non-state)||59.1%||01||Vermont||74.3%|