The Top Ten States That Americans Are Moving Out Of – And The States They Are Relocating To

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The people at Atlas Van Lines know where people are moving to. After all, it’s their business to help people relocate around America. They don’t just haul boxes and lug them in and out of houses, though. They keep tabs on where people leave and end up, and they use this information to track which states have the biggest emigrations – and which ones draw in the most people. Here are 2019’s statistics, starting with the top ten states that Americans are leaving, followed by the places where most of them end up.

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10. Connecticut

Connecticut ranks tenth on the list thanks to a 56 percent outbound move rate. In essence, this means that 6 percent more people left the state than came in. This trend has been going on for a couple of years in the Constitution State, and a handful of studies – and anecdotes – have come to explain why. Some departing residents have pointed to the state’s government, as it was bitterly divided and in deep debt in 2018.

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On top of that, companies have moved headquarters and branches out of Connecticut, including big names like General Electric and Aetna. Some former residents simply left to avoid paying the state’s high taxes. And then there were those who moved due to personal preference – the chilly northeast might not be the best place to retire and relax, after all.

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9. Indiana

Next on the list is Indiana, where 56.5 percent of movers packed up to leave the state. In the past, the reasons for their departures have been simple ones. For instance, two-thirds of leavers in 2017 said that they had to relocate for a new job. After that, the most common cause for an Indianan goodbye was for reasons related to family or retirement.

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Income has been a driving factor for Indiana departures in the past, as well. A 2017 study found that more than 60 percent of those who fled the state did so for a salary of $100,000 or more elsewhere. Other than that, there was little rhyme or reason in the demographic factors. It was, after all, a near-even split among the age groups of the people who left.

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8. Nebraska

Approximately 56.6 percent of Nebraska’s movers were heading outbound in 2019. And around half of them fell between the ages of 18 and 44. As such, you might be able to guess why so many of them were leaving town. That is, the majority of them did so to seek out better employment elsewhere.

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Indeed, Nebraska has long dealt with a so-called “brain drain” problem. Its highly educated young people tend to leave their home state for other cities where they can obtain more fruitful jobs. They simply cannot find the same opportunities in the Cornhusker State, where most positions reportedly don’t require applicants to have experience.

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7. Delaware

After Nebraska comes Delaware, where 57.3 percent of people moving are leaving the First State behind. And it’s not the first time that it has made the list of outbound hotspots. In 2017 Atlas Van Lines spokeswoman Brooke Shaffer told Delaware Online that most people ditched the state because of its high taxation and scarcity of working opportunities and entertainment outlets.

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Officials considered the exodus to be a huge issue facing Delaware because its remaining working population had begun to age and young people continued to look for work elsewhere. Figures indicated that the state’s death rate would rise above its birth rate by 2030. This combination could prove to be disastrous for Delaware’s economy.


6. New Jersey

Delaware’s neighbor New Jersey has also seen more people leave than move in. According to Atlas Van Lines, their outbound move rate was at 57.9 percent in 2019. And like many others on the list, this state’s exodus has long been on experts’ radar. In previous years, jobs were a driving factor for people leaving their home state behind.

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But New Jersey also saw people selling their homes and moving on in order to retire somewhere else. Family was a big draw, too, with nearly a quarter of 2018 leavers saying that they wanted to be closer to relatives. And then there was health – although it’s unclear how a move might improve one’s well-being, a few people did cite it as their reason for saying goodbye to New Jersey.

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5. Louisiana

About 18.5 million people visit New Orleans each year. The number of tourists flooding into the Big Easy has steadily grown over the years. Meanwhile, Louisiana’s residents have begun to leave the state behind at an outbound move rate of 59.6 percent. Much like Nebraska, the state has suffered from brain drain for years as locals move to find better jobs.

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There’s a specific pattern plaguing Louisiana, too – its young residents who have college degrees tend to find jobs in nearby Texas. Business economist Gary Wagner told The Advocate in 2019 that retaining these grads would be vital to the Bayou State’s future. He explained, “The way I like to think of it is people are the best resource we have… When you take away the number one resource you have, that’s a disadvantage.”

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4. Illinois

North of Louisiana, the state of Illinois is experiencing a similar problem, with outbound migration counting for 61.4 percent of the state’s movement. Making this list, however, is nothing new for Illinois, where officials have tracked a decline in residents since the 1970s. In recent years, though, it has become more of a problem as the state’s economic center of Chicago has also seen an increase in outbound movers.

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There are plenty of potential reasons for the decline in Illinois residents. Anecdotal evidence points to the state’s high taxes, but the Census Bureau’s survey doesn’t include that as a standardized reason for departure. Instead, people have chosen the “wanted cheaper housing” option, which may encapsulate the tax issue. Beyond that, out-of-state jobs often draw Illinoisans away.

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3. South Dakota

South Dakota is next on the list, with outbound moves making up 61.7 percent of its total transitions. As of 2017 the state ranked third-highest on the list of places experiencing the aforementioned brain drain. They had trouble replacing the highly educated residents who departed with other transplants.

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Of course, the lack of opportunities wasn’t the only reason for South Dakotans to leave town. Many of those contributing to the brain drain wanted more out of the place they live. The Mount Rushmore State doesn’t have a major airport, nor does it have a thriving cultural scene. And it has lost many residents for these reasons.


2. West Virginia

In 2019 outbound movers made up 62.5 percent of West Virginia’s overall shift in residents. The state has seen increased residency in its eastern region, where people have relocated to avoid paying the high cost of living in nearby hubs Baltimore and Washington D.C. However, the rest of the state has seen lots of people leave – and it doesn’t make up for one area of growth.

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West Virginia’s problem is a cyclical one – people are leaving, and the birth rate is going down. This makes it difficult for the state to attract businesses, which choose to relocate based on population booms. And if there isn’t an increase in commerce in the Mountain State, then locals aren’t likely to stick around to wait for opportunity.

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1. New York

It might be surprising to see New York at the top of this list with a 62.7 outbound moving rate. Nearly 8.4 million people call the state’s eponymous city their home, and the rest of the Empire State encompasses about 11 million more residents. But people have been leaving in droves. In the city, huge numbers were departing daily for greener pastures in 2019.

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Those who leave New York in the dust have reason for doing so. For starters, the state has high taxes – and they’re even more costly in the Big Apple. People also dislike the neglected state infrastructure, dirty streets, tired airports and crowds that have come to define New York and NYC. And then there’s the weather – it goes from freezing cold to boiling hot and back again.

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10. Texas

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Texas. Here, 56.1 percent of its moves are inbound. Indeed, the Lone Star State has long been attracting new residents as its largest cities balloon in size. There are plenty of reasons for this ongoing growth, and you can probably guess some yourself. After all, you know why people have left other states.

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Texas has access to oil and gas, which makes the state a huge employer in energy. As that industry has boomed – and brought people into the state – so have the tech, manufacturing and business sectors, too. And in Texas, residents get more bang for their buck with a cheap cost of living, reasonably priced homes and low taxes.

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9. District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has long had a steady stream of people moving to the nation’s capital. At one point, D.C.’s officials touted a shocking number – they said the city had 1,000 new residents flooding in every month. Nowadays, things have slowed down, but they still count 56.9 percent of their moves as inbound ones.

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Typically, D.C.’s population changes go hand in hand with the economy. More people move into the capital’s limits when there’s less opportunity for work elsewhere. However, when the rest of the country starts booming, then people take the chance to move out. The cost of living is high in D.C., after all. So, while things have slowed, there’s still enough of a demand for D.C. jobs to keep people moving in.

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8. Alabama

In 2019 Alabama had an inbound mover rate of 56.9 percent. And a huge portion of those new residents came from one of the states where people have been leaving more frequently – Illinois. Between 2010 and 2019, around 30,000 one-time Illinoisans packed up and moved south to the Heart of Dixie.

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There are plenty of reasons why Illinoisans – and Americans from all over – have started moving to Alabama. The state boasts a low cost of living, including its very generous tax rates for residents. Residents also enjoy a mild winter, pristine beaches, rugged mountains and, of course, plenty of Southern hospitality.

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7. Arizona

Just above Alabama on the list is Arizona, which saw an inbound mover rate of 57.7 percent in 2019. The data didn’t surprise experts who track such movements, though. Arizona’s neighbors – such as California and Washington – have much higher tax rates. As such, people skip town and settle in Arizona, where business booms thanks to more relaxed regulations and lower tariffs.

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These businesses draw workers to lucrative positions in Arizona. But not everyone comes here to work. You see, the state has a huge population of retirees who move in each year, too. And only half of the Baby Boomer generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – have retired. So, even more snowbirds will likely land in the Grand Canyon State in the coming years.

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6. Rhode Island

Rhode Island saw a hair more growth than Arizona in 2019 – the state counted 57.8 percent of its movers as inbound ones. Locals can highlight plenty of reasons why someone might want to move to the Ocean State. In fact, that nickname is a hint – everybody living in Rhode Island can drive for less than 60 minutes and reach the beach.

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The locals love their state beaches, including Narragansett and Newport. But Rhode Island also has a varied climate to attract new residents who want to experience all four seasons. On that note, locals can appreciate the green energy solutions installed throughout their state, all of which will hopefully help to preserve the natural beauty that attracts people to move there in the first place.

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5. Tennessee

Tennessee saw a steady influx of new residents in 2019 – 58.5 percent of all of the state’s movers were headed inbound. The Volunteer State has plenty to offer people, too. The unemployment rate has been low in recent years, meaning that locals have an easy time finding work within the state’s borders. Big-name businesses including FedEx and Dollar General have bases in Tennessee.

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It’s about more than just work in Tennessee, though. The state has more than 75 universities and colleges, which makes it a great destination for families whose kids are approaching their high school years. Homes cost relatively little here, and there’s no state income tax. If that’s not enough incentive, consider the high-quality hospitals and healthcare available. The world-renowned St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital has been at the cutting edge of pediatric cancer care since the 1960s.

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4. New Mexico

In 2019 New Mexico had an inbound mover rate of 59 percent. This development is an interesting one for the state, which saw slow growth in the past. Once upon a time, the Land of Enchantment had a serious problem with brain drain. Indeed, its college-educated residents used to high-tail it out of the state, degrees in hand.

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Nowadays, though, New Mexico boasts a varied job market, with industries including aerospace and defense, agriculture and energy drawing people into rewarding careers. The cost of living matches the national average. And New Mexicans get to spend their time away from the office enjoying the state’s stunning landscapes – it’s called the Land of Enchantment for a reason.

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3. North Carolina

Growth in population numbers has propelled North Carolina forward in recent years. In 2019, for instance, the inbound mover rate was 59.3 percent. Even before then, though, experts noticed that net migration was rising year after year. Since 2015 the state has averaged over 110,000 new North Carolinians moving in annually.

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Indeed, North Carolina has a lot to offer its residents. People cite the weather as a draw. After all, the state has all four seasons, with mild winters to boot. The unemployment rate is typically low, with exciting industries – like biotechnology, manufacturing, energy, pharmaceuticals – drawing people in for work.

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2. Washington

Microsoft. Google. Amazon. These are some of the biggest names in business – and they all have a major presence in Washington. The plentiful jobs are just one draw for the many people who move to the Pacific Northwest. In 2019 the inbound mover rate reached 60.5 percent, for this reason and more.

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It’s not just the job market that makes Washington appealing. The state has a gorgeous landscape, and lots of people pine to move there for the fresh air. Then, there’s the lack of state income tax, which doesn’t hurt. And if you’re worried about the rain, think again. Other U.S. cities – even places like Miami – see more precipitation than Washington’s capital Seattle.

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1. Idaho

The state with the most inbound movers in 2019 was Idaho. It has a lot to do with a state close by, where a slew of factors have pushed residents to leave. Namely, people wanted to move out of California to avoid the exorbitant housing costs, high taxes, a wild political scene and the unpredictable string of natural disasters that have plagued the state.

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Idaho is more than just a cost-of-living haven for fed-up Californians, though. Take the capital city of Boise, to where many former West Coasters have flocked. It has long ranked as one of the country’s best cities in which to live. It has high safety ratings, reasonable taxes and housing costs, a thriving job market and a number of outdoor activities to entertain and inspire residents new and old.