- The mobility rate in the United States is now at its lowest point since the US Census Bureau started tracking it, in 1947, and in 2018 it dropped under 10 percent for the first time in history; However, around 31 million Americans still moved last year, and 4.6 million of them moved interstate.
- The interstate migration routes that attracted the most people in 2018 were California to Texas, California to Arizona and New York to New Jersey.
- The states seeing the most newcomers were Florida, Texas and California, while those with the fewest were Wyoming, Vermont and South Dakota.
- The most expensive move is from California to Colorado, while the least expensive ones are from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and from Ohio to Michigan.
Mobility and moving in search of new opportunities is deeply ingrained in the American lifestyle, and having this type of mindset can be economically beneficial. Moreover, moving gives people freedom of choice regarding the best place for their needs, whether they’re on a quest for better housing, specialized academic opportunities, or a more varied cultural and entertainment scene.
Americans Are One of the Most Mobile Nations Worldwide
Americans are one of the most mobile nations in the world, according to a global study led by researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia. US citizens ranked third in terms of cross-country mobility among the 60 countries considered in the research, and their appetite for moving is surpassed only by that of the New Zealanders and South Koreans.
The likelihood of an American resident changing his address within five years stands at 45.9%, the aforementioned research claims. Americans are about five times more likely to move within a five-year period than the residents of Spain and India, for example.
How Much Does It Cost to Move across America?
Here at STORAGECafé, we wanted to see what moving entails these days, as it clearly affects every sector of real estate, from the need for more housing and self-storage in specific locations to the improvement of transit infrastructure. To identify the latest migration patterns, we analyzed the latest US Census Bureau data and ranked the contiguous US states from the most popular for moving to the least popular, based on the number of move-ins. We then paired each destination state with the most common originating state of its newcomers, resulting in an insightful picture of some of the most widely used migration routes in the country.
Moreover, by partnering with United Van Lines, the largest full-service moving company in the US, we also put a price tag on interstate moving. The price was calculated for an average 2-bedroom home and does not include packing or insurance.
Are you wondering where newcomers to the Sunshine State moved from, for example? Select Florida and you’ll see a pop-up showing the Primary Originating State for new residents there – in other words, the one where the highest number of them came from – as well as the cost of moving associated with the move. More Florida transplants come from New York State – approx. 63K – than from any other, and the average cost of moving ranges between $3,900 and $4,300.
5 of the Busiest Moving Routes Originate in California: California to Texas Tops the List
The average cost of the interstate moves in our dataset varies between $2,400 and $4,500, depending on the distance. Swapping California for Texas, which is the most common route nationally, with more than 86,000 taking it last year, comes with a price tag between $3,700 and $4,100. Another very popular migration choice, also originating from California but this time leading to Arizona, costs roughly between $3,300 and $3,600. These costs are not exorbitant when you think that people who have large homes often spend upwards of $10k to move from state to state.
Californians, the most mobile of all Americans, with more than 690,000 of them moving to a different state in 2018, have to foot a bill between $3,800 and $4,200 in order to get to Washington State, which is another popular destination. Luckily, going to Nevada is somewhat less expensive for them – between $3,200 and $3,500.
Housing and living costs are the main reasons why so many Californians decide to move to other US states. Renting an apartment now costs over $3,700 per month in the San Francisco area, $2,530 in Los Angeles, and $2,729 in San Jose, according to Yardi Matrix data.
In fact, a recent Edelman Intelligence report found that 72% of the state’s residents consider that the expense and availability of housing is a very serious issue for them, while 53% of Californians are considering moving out of state because of the high cost of living.
People leaving New York State have two favorite destinations that couldn’t be more different: Almost 65,000 New Yorkers moved to New Jersey in 2018, and another 63,000 migrated south to Florida. Moving to New Jersey, with an associated price tag of $3,100 to $3,400, is much more affordable than heading to Florida – a New Yorker must pay between $3,900 and $4,300 in order to get there.
New Yorkers may leave the Big Apple for a variety of reasons. This November, the average monthly rent for an apartment reached almost $3,000 in Brooklyn, $2,170 in Long Island, and more than $4,200 in Manhattan, according to Yardi Matrix. As for the rest of the state, the fact that one’s dollar doesn’t go as far as in other parts of the country – not least because of the taxes there – may get some people packing their bags.
Looking at the most popular moving destinations, taxes do seem to be an important factor in domestic migration. Florida and Texas, two states with low tax burdens, are attracting plenty of Californians and New Yorkers, two states famous for their high tax rates. In a list created by The Tax Foundation of the states where Americans are paying the least tax, Florida and Texas rank consistently high, taking 1st and 6th places respectively. New Jersey, on the other hand, is the US state where residents pay the most tax, and California and New York are not too far behind, taking second-to-last and third-to-last places respectively.
The Most and the Least Expensive Moving Routes
When it comes to the most expensive moves, Californians are leading the pack. Fortunately, these expensive migration paths are generally not the most popular ones. Leaving California for Colorado breaks the bank – the cost for such a move hovers between $4,000 and $4,500 – but only 22,288 people completed that move in 2018.
Californians also pay a pretty penny when moving to Idaho – between $3,900 and $4,300 – or to Illinois, for which the price tag varies between $3,600 and $3,700. Unlike these two destinations, which saw only a relatively small number of Californians last year, Oregon is pretty popular. More than 43,000 people moved from California to Oregon in 2018 and it cost them between $3,700 and $4,100 on average per move. That brings the cost of the route to roughly 176.5M on average per year.
The least expensive moves are from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, around $2,300 – $2,400 for moving a 2-bedroom home. That’s great news for New Jerseyites, considering that almost 44,000 of them took that path in 2018.
The same price tag is attached to moving from Ohio to Michigan, making the route pretty affordable too. Similarly, Pennsylvanians get a good deal when moving to Ohio – around $2,500 – and almost 17,000 of them went that route in 2018.
U.S. Migration Levels at Lowest Point Since 1947
When looking a few decades back, it becomes apparent that mobility in the US is actually at its lowest point since the government started keeping track. According to the latest data released by the US Census Bureau, only about 9.8% of Americans moved in 2018.
That’s the lowest share of movers since 1947, when the Census Bureau started gathering data, and the first time that the percentage has dropped under 10%. By comparison, in 2017, 10.13% of Americans moved, and almost 15% of those moved interstate.
Between 1999 and 2000, more than 16% of Americans were moving, with 20% of those going long distances. If we look even further down the line, Census Bureau data show that, in the 50s, about 20% of Americans were moving each year.
There are many potential explanations for why Americans are moving less than they did in the past. One is the demography – the median age of the population is growing, and older people are less interested in moving than young ones. Another is that cost of living exploded in most large cities, and young people interested in job opportunities are deterred by those costs.
The Most Popular States for Moving
Even with this decrease of mobility in the United States, around 31 million Americans were still moving last year, and approximately 4.6 million of them were moving interstate. So where are Americans moving to these days? We’ve further broken down the US Census data and ranked the 48 adjoining U.S. states plus the District of Columbia based on the number of people moving there from the other states.
Florida takes the top spot regarding the number of newcomers welcomed in 2018. Almost 590,000 people moved there last year, and it appears that the residents of New York State are the most eager of all Americans to get some sunshine: 11% of the movers to Florida, about 63,000 people, came from New York.
Texas takes second place on the podium among the most popular states for moving to in 2018, with almost 564,000 newcomers. A good portion of them – 15%, or 86,000 – were Californians. Under these circumstances, we’re wondering how long it will be before Lone Star state residents trade their iconic cowboy boots for flip-flops!
California, in third place, received a little over 500,000 new residents last year. The most represented group among them are the Washingtonians – 8% of all newcomers, or about 38,000, traded the famously cloudy state for sunny California.
North Carolina is the fourth-most popular destination for interstate moving in the US, receiving almost 320,000 migrants in 2018. Floridians, obviously overwhelmed by all those newly transplanted New Yorkers, are packing their bags and flocking to North Carolina – 37,500 or 12% of all movers to North Carolina in 2018 originated from Florida.
Georgia comes next, with a little over 274,000 people moving to the state last year. It’s another favorite destination for Floridians – no less than 51,000 newcomers, which represents 19% of the total number of Georgia’s new residents, originated from the Sunshine State.
Virginia welcomed about 274,000 interstate migrants in 2018 and was defeated by Georgia by only a few hundred people. That puts it into sixth place among the most popular destinations for interstate moving. About 28,000 of the movers, or 10% of the total, originate from Maryland.
Arizona, with 273,000 newcomers last year, and Washington, with 260,000, take the seventh and eighth places respectively. In the case of both these states, the most common originating state of the new residents is California – 68,000 or 25% for Arizona and 55,000 or 21% for Washington.
New York state takes ninth place on the list of the most popular moving destinations in the country. It received about 254,000 newcomers in 2018 and, unsurprisingly, New Jersey is the most common originating state of the movers – more than 36,000 people or 14% of all the new residents came from there.
Pennsylvania ranks tenth with 253,000 newcomers, among which New Jerseyites make up the largest group – 44,000 people, or 17% of the total.
The Least Popular States for Moving
Looking at things from the other side, it’s also interesting to see which states attract the fewest newcomers within the contiguous United States. Mountainous Wyoming, the country’s least populous state, is also the least popular one when it comes to interstate moving, receiving only 25,700 new residents from 2018 to 2019. The most common originating state among those movers is Colorado, with 5,600 people or 22% of the total – maybe it takes other true mountaineers to move to Wyoming!
The penultimate in terms of raw numbers of people moving between states is Vermont, which welcomed 26,300 newcomers last year. Of them, 4,500 people, representing 17% of the total, came from New York. In third from last place is South Dakota, which received 26,800 new residents in 2018 – and the most eager to move there are Minnesotans, with 3,800 people or 14% of the total.
The 10 US States with the Highest Outbound Migration
The migration flow in the US, state-to-state, says many things about the conditions in both the originating and destination states. Factors such as business climate, cost and quality of living, cultural attractions, taxes, labor market dynamism, job security and salary levels will certainly be important for anyone making the decision to move.
The table below shows it is very far from true that the states which see the most outbound migration are those which fail in terms of economic or cultural factors – there are many reasons why they would be desirable places to live! However, it could be said that some places become victims of their own success, with increasing property prices and perhaps taxes to match, which encourages some people to leave.
In addition, there is simply the situation when places start to get full, geographically, and it makes sense for people to move somewhere else. Lastly, some states experiencing strong outbound migration also experience the inbound variety—California, for example, may be top of our list of Americans ‘voting with their feet,’ but it also sees a good number of highly qualified people coming for the high-salaried jobs, including many from abroad.
What the future holds in terms of mobility in the US is difficult to say, but, considering the decline in the moving rates that has occurred slowly yet consistently over several decades, we might be actually experiencing a major shift in the American lifestyle. However, we are still seeing a lot more prone to moving than in most other nations around the world. If you are about to migrate we wish you a good journey, and in case you need to store your belongings during this process, STORAGECafé will help you find conveniently located self-storage units.
This research was conducted by StorageCafe, an online listings portal where people can easily find self-storage units for rent across the United States.
Since the self-storage industry is closely related to population growth, we wanted to identify the major migration patterns in the U.S. In order to provide a more comprehensive picture of what mobility entails, we also looked at the relocation costs associated with the most common state-to-state moves.
The pricing data was kindly provided by United Van Lines through their Snapmoves program. United Van Lines has a network of more than 340 agent locations that allow them to blanket the country with long distance movers, serving nearly every city and small town across America with the best moving services available.
Migration data was taken from the US Census.
Fair Use and Distribution:
This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.