Migration Study: The top 10 states people moved to and from in 2020

If you would like to review the latest data and insights from the 45th United Migration Study, view our up-to-date blog on where people moved to and from in 2021.

In the relocation industry, where, why and how people move is our obsession. That’s why our favorite time of year is when our long distance moving partner, United Van Lines, comes out with their yearly migration survey.

Where people move can tell us so much about what is happening with the world at large – it impacts and has implications on the economy, local and state politics, as well as our culture on the local and national level. Moving trends show us what Americans want for their futures, and their children’s future.

In analyzing 2020 (quite a task) the big questions are:

  • What are the prevailing truths about American migration?
  • What compels people to move year after year?
  • What compelled people to move THIS year?
  • Did American’s destinations change in 2020?

Let’s dive into United’s 44th National Annual Migration Study to find out.

Based on United’s data, the top reasons for moving include:

  1. New job opportunity or company transfer (47.98%)
  2. Closer to family (23.66%)
  3. Retirement (20.15%)
  4. Lifestyle change (13.08%)

Note that in spite of all of the changes Americans went through this year, the top four reasons to move haven’t changed from last year’s United study.

New job opportunity or company transfer makes sense as the top reason – according to Bloomberg, “Americans who move see green.”

About 58% of Americans live in the state they were born, and only 23.3 million adults between the ages of 25 and 44 live outside of their birth state. However, it seems like the minority is winning – people born in a state different than their state of residence see a median annual income that is more than $5,700 higher than people who live in their birth state.

Among Americans with incomes over $75,000, movers made up 21.3% of this group. Those stats are reflected in poverty as well, with 13.8% of the people living in their birth state earning below the poverty level, which compares to only 10.4% for those who have moved out of state.

Top 10 states people moved to:

  1. Idaho (67.4%)
  2. Oregon (65.7%)
  3. Arizona (63.2%)
  4. South Carolina (61.8%)
  5. Washington (59.5%)
  6. District of Columbia (59.3%)
  7. Florida (58.1%)
  8. South Dakota (57.4%)
  9. North Carolina (57.3%)
  10. New Mexico (56.1%)

This study reveals that Idaho saw the highest inbound traffic of any state recording more than 250 moves, for the second year running. Other high inbound states in 2020 include South Carolina, Oregon and South Dakota. New York, Illinois, Connecticut, and California were also among the states seeing the highest outbound movement.

It should be noted that the western part of the US dominated the top five destinations with four out of the top five belonging to Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington state. The only state in the top five destinations from the east coast this year belonged to South Carolina.

Americans have been moving to western and southern states in greater numbers for several years now, and this was one of many trends accelerated by COVID-19.

*Please note: Percentages are based on total moves for that state. For example, 67.4% of moves in Idaho were inbound, so 32.6% were outbound to make 100%.

Top 10 states people moved from:

  1. New Jersey (68.5%)
  2. Illinois (66.5%)
  3. New York (63.1%)
  4. Connecticut (63.0%)
  5. Kansas (58.5%)
  6. Ohio (57.8%)
  7. California (56.9%)
  8. Michigan (56.9%)
  9. North Dakota (55.2%)
  10. Iowa (55.0%)

Note that New Jersey topped the list of outbound states, seeing the greatest exodus for the third consecutive year.

Balanced states

Several states saw nearly the same number of residents moving inbound as outbound. New Hampshire and Montana are among these “balanced states.”

*Although Vermont experienced the highest percentage of inbound moves overall, United Van Lines moved fewer than 250 families in and out of the state. The inbound and outbound rankings in the 2020 study only reflect states with 250 moves or more.

The COVID-19 effect on city migration

“United Van Lines’ data makes it clear that migration to western and southern states, a prevalent pattern for the past several years, persisted in 2020,” said Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“However, we’re seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt accelerated broader moving trends, including retirement driving top inbound regions as the Baby Boomer generation continues to reach that next phase of life.”

For retirement, Montana and Delaware experienced more inbound moves than any other state at 41%, followed by Florida (39%) and South Carolina (38.5%).

Minnesota led the list of states people moved to for family (41%), and Wyoming was the top state for a lifestyle change with an inbound percentage upwards of 29.

More people migrated to Nebraska (72%) for a new job or job transfer than any other state, and more people moved to Idaho (11%) due to the cost of living than any other state.

Throughout 2020, major metropolitan areas and hotspots, such as New York City (72%), Newark (72%) and Chicago (69%), experienced greater outbound migration due to the pandemic, while lower-density cities such as Wilmington, North Carolina (79%) and Boise, Idaho (75%) saw high levels of inbound moves.

As a top agent for United, where can our Suddath team help you move this year?