- The United States’ Mountain West region emerges as a magnet for Americans, with four of the top ten states for net migration located here.
- Idaho has been experiencing the highest net migration rate in the United States. For every 1,000 people residing in Idaho, approximately 25 new people moved there in 2021 – that’s five times more newcomers than Texas welcomed in the same year.
- Southern states, spearheaded by South Carolina and Tennessee, maintain their allure as well, fueled by affordable real estate markets and thriving economies.
- The hubs of recent population exodus, Alaska, New York, Illinois and California, have each experienced double-digit negative net migration.
Migration patterns have shifted significantly in recent years, with Americans losing some of their appetite for moving. However, while migration rates are down overall, state-to-state migration has taken off. In fact, both 2021 and 2022 witnessed increased interstate moving activity compared to the rest of the decade. Roughly 7.9 million people jumped on the bandwagon to move to another state in 2021, and 2022 set a record with 8.2 million interstate movers.
While this trend aligns with historical patterns favoring the Sunbelt region in migration preferences, it is also significantly influenced by the growing enthusiasm for remote work and an increased demand for more space in the post-pandemic era. US Census data in fact shows a trend towards buying larger homes, particularly in the Southern states where homes sold recently had more square footage compared to those sold in previous years. The average floor area of single family homes sold there increased by 60 square feet between 2019 and 2022 and now sits at 2,608 sq. ft. This compares to a nationwide increase of 41 sq. ft. over the same period, with homes sold in 2022 reaching an average size of 2,559 square feet.
Overall, the quest for more space combined with a range of economic factors is driving a notable surge in popularity among less-populated states.
So, which states are people moving to? And what are the biggest draws that get them on the road? To see which states are experiencing the most significant impact from the recent relocation trends, we analyzed and ranked all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on the number of net newcomers — those arriving minus those leaving — per 1,000 residents. State-level data comes from the 2021 American Community Survey.
Furthermore, we examined several key indicators to uncover the underlying factors driving these recent migration patterns, including demographic data, incomes and unemployment, home prices and sizes in both the state of origin and the destination, as well as housing inventory, among others. Notably, Western and Southern states are competing vigorously to establish themselves as net migration hotspots, while New England is emerging as a strong contender in the relocation race.
Western Mountain states get their fair share of newcomers with Idaho first nationally for net migration as share of population
The main reasons people move have always been strongly connected to the job and housing markets. The post-pandemic period is no exception, and it only amplified what most people already had on their checklists.
And of course, while the top-10 states seeing spectacular net migration are rich in culture and natural landscapes, they also share a few characteristics that have now become deal-breakers for those seeking a fresh start. Most offer a backdrop for a relaxed lifestyle, including the opportunity for better housing — whether that means roomier living space or more bang for the buck — a healthy job market, a favorable tax climate, a strong connection to nature and a slower pace of life.
Among the net migration winners, Interior West states secured four spots on the list, with Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona making their way into people’s preferences.
Idaho saw almost 25 newcomers per 1,000 residents in 2021, according to the latest US Census data – that’s five times more newcomers per capita compared to Texas. In fact, Idaho’s population increased by more than 13% over a 5-year interval (from 2016 to 2021), the highest of all US states, with domestic migration one of the main drivers of population growth.
Californians are the most important group of out-of-state movers coming to Idaho. Interestingly, baby boomers comprise around 35% of them, highlighting Idaho as an appealing retirement destination for Californians. Median housing prices in the Golden State are 76% more expensive than in Idaho, which makes this route very financially advantageous for people on the brink of retirement. Not only do they get access to a more peaceful and tranquil lifestyle, but if sell property in California and buy in Idaho, a nice financial nest egg for the future as well. About 55% of all the Californians moving to Idaho become homeowners in their first year of living there.
Millennials are the age group most often moving to Idaho from other states, foremost from Washington State. Overall, the 22K movers’ households have average earnings of $106K. This is somewhat above the $97K household paychecks in Idaho’s but, as with Californians, they are coming to a state with a much lower unemployment rate of 2.7.
Millennials also form the largest demographic among the several thousands who move every year from Oregon, Utah and Maine. The average incomes of $89K and $96K that all movers from the first two of these states earn are similar to Idaho’s overall figure. However, the couple of thousand coming from Maine experience an average household income of $145K, which they may need for property prices that are 31% most expensive.
Colorado also sends over 6K people to Idaho each year but, by contrast, Gen-Xers are the predominant demographic. These former Coloradans earn fat paychecks averaging around $123K, and they will be happy to see house values almost $100K lower — meanwhile, the former Washingtonians can net an even greater $118K.
Montana, another state famous for its beautiful outdoors, ranks third with an influx of 18 newcomers per 1,000 residents. Most of them come from Washington State, California and Colorado, with Californian baby boomers once again showing a strong appetite for moving to inland states. For example, about 44% of the Californians who relocated to Montana in 2021 are part of the 56-74 age group. But millennials seem to also appreciate Montana’s breathtaking scenery as the cohort aged 24-38 makes up the biggest generational group that chooses Montana from all other top origin states.
The average age of Montana’s new arrivals, irrespective of their place of origin, is 38, and even with average paychecks they will find the affordability of Big Sky Country matches its slower pace of life. The median price of a home in Montana is currently $319K, ranking it somewhere in the middle among the US states.
Transplants originating from Washington State, California and Colorado are among the highest earning, with incomes around $145K, $134 and $108K, respectively. Meanwhile, the average household income in Montana is roughly $95K and the unemployment rate is a sound 2.4%, somewhat below the national figure of 3.6%.
Nevada, ranking 6th overall, registers over 14 newcomers per 1,000 residents, with California the main provider – almost 60K Californians took the route across the desert to Nevada in 2021 alone. The average household that exchanged California for Nevada was made up of four people and they got significantly cheaper homes: A median home in Nevada is 42% less expensive than one in California.
Millennials are the largest group of people relocating to Nevada from four of the top five originating states: California, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. The Silver State is also establishing itself as a premier destination for Generation Xers, particularly from Washington State, from where a remarkable 56% of new arrivals fall into the 40-to-55 age bracket. Moreover, a significant portion of these newcomers are remote workers, accounting for approximately 16% of the people who traded the evergreens of Washington for the sagebrush of Nevada.
Another western hotspot that emerged as a magnet for Gen Xers is Arizona, where the average age of newcomers is 41, placing it third after Florida and Nevada in terms of attracting older residents. Boasting a favorable tax climate, spectacular outdoor scenery and a strong economic landscape, Arizona is steadily drawing in individuals from other states. It landed 7th spot in the ranking of the most popular relocation destinations, with more than 12 new people for every 1,000 residents and a net population gain from incoming migration of over 90K in one year.
California is the main supplier of new Arizona residents, almost 70K people, followed by Washington State, over 23K people, and they experience a significantly more affordable real estate market. However, those relocating from Texas, in third place, as well as the Midwest will have to work on expending their housing budgets as Arizona homes come with higher price tags compared to what they are used to.
Housing availability is in fact one of the challenges that Arizona is facing, as migration has been putting extra pressure on an already tight market. The number of housing units per capita here is sitting at 0.43, one of the lowest rates in the country. And although there were around 60,000 building permits issued in 2021 and 2022, this represents only 0.72 per new Arizonan, signifying that the state is barely keeping up with incoming migration.
New England ranks high on the migration map with Vermont and Maine among the most popular relocation destinations in the US
Boasting beautiful landscapes, safe communities and endless outdoor recreation options, Vermont ranks second nationally for net migration per capita, with 24 newcomers per 1,000 residents. Vermont is generally attracting a well-educated crowd, as 45% of those coming in hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Former residents of New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut make up the bulk of new arrivals. Although Vermont is not an inexpensive destination in terms of cost of living and housing, those from the top originating places are still getting a good deal by relocating: The median home price in Vermont is $210K less expensive compared to the median price in Massachusetts, for example.
Of those moving to Vermont, an appreciable 15% are working from home, a practice that’s even more popular among the younger generation. Gen Zers make up the bulk of those relocating from Connecticut to Vermont, and no less than 36% of all the newcomers taking this route are remote workers, the most among any of the top routes leading to Vermont.
Maine takes the fifth spot among the states with the highest net migration per capita. The state sees 15 newcomers per 1,000 residents, with the average income of those coming in being not far off the average income in the state: $86K vs $99K. Among those moving to Maine, 45% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. They may work from home, a lifestyle which has become associated with the state and is enjoyed by a high 17% of the incoming population.
The most common originating states are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California and Florida. 63% of the Floridians relocating to Maine are baby boomers, so they are already retired or close to retirement. An impressive 81% of Floridians abandoning warm beaches for cooler ones manage to buy a home during their first year in Maine. Irrespective of the place of origin, roughly 59% of those who move to Maine own a home there. Only 30% of incomers are declared to be renters.
Both Vermont and Maine are better supplied in terms of housing options than the rest of the US states, with 0.52 and 0.54 housing units per person, respectively. Washington DC is sandwiched in between with 0.53 units per capita.
Southern states bank on inexpensive real estate to attract newcomers
Two Southern states are among the top 10 with most newcomers per capita: South Carolina and Tennessee. One thing they have in common is the affordability of their housing markets, as well as a burgeoning economy, which attracts movers both from neighboring states and from further afield.
South Carolina, ranking fourth in the list, sees over 15 newcomers per 1,000 residents, with neighboring North Carolina and Georgia standing out as the most common originating states, and Florida, Virginia and California also contributing. Millennials, now the prime generation in terms of home purchasing, are making up the bulk of those relocating to South Carolina. With a median home value of around $209K, South Carolina makes a profitable destination for many. Those coming in from Georgia will pay, on average, $37K less for a home, while those leaving California for South Carolina stand to save an impressive $436K.
Tennessee is the ninth state nationally for net migration as a share of population, with almost 10 newcomers per 1,000 residents. Most of them are moving here from California, Florida and Georgia, but in addition Texas and Illinois both sent more than 12,000 people to Tennessee in 2021 alone. All these moving routes, except Illinois, offer newcomers access to a more affordable real estate market compared to their states of origin. Californians who choose Tennessee as their new location are seeing median homes that are almost $413K less expensive – and, in fact, about 65% of the Californians moving here manage to purchase a home within their first year in Tennessee.
The more than 5,000 former New York residents who move south to Tennessee also find a much friendlier housing market. Homes are 37% cheaper on average, with the vast majority of the new arrivals becoming homeowners in the first year of residence in Tennessee. The cheaper housing market only amplifies the area’s (often underestimated) appeal. Harry Johns White of NbaBlast.com moved from New York to Tennessee because of job-related reasons and he enjoyed the whole experience. “I took the plunge and moved from the bustling streets of NYC to the scenic beauty of Knoxville,” he said. “Trading the honking taxis for the serene sounds of nature, it felt like a breath of fresh air (quite literally!) Knoxville offered a slower pace, welcoming neighborhoods, and some genuinely heartwarming southern hospitality.”
North Dakota's appeal rises with lower costs of living and plenty of room to breathe
North Dakota, ranking eight in the country, sees more than 12 newcomers per 1,000 residents. Neighboring Minnesota, followed by Texas and Florida, are the most common originating states for those who choose the Peace Garden State as their new home. The move is financially advantageous for newcomers, as homes in North Dakota are significantly cheaper compared to similar real estate in the originating states. Those relocating from Minnesota to North Dakota get access to a housing market where homes are around 22% less expensive.
Oklahoma rounds out the top 10 of states with the highest net migration as a share of population, with almost 10 newcomers for every 1,000 residents. Texas and California are the states sending the largest waves of people, followed by Kansas. As with other states in the American Heartland, Oklahoma, where the median home price hovers around $167K, represents a very attractive destination for home buyers. Californians have access to homes that are around $478K cheaper than in their originating states, while Texans manage to save an average of $67K in housing costs by relocating to Oklahoma.
Missing the top 10 by a hairbreadth, Florida ranks 11th with 9.5 newcomers per 1,000 residents, and a huge net gain of 208K people in 2021. The state has a pattern of incoming migration that sees people from all around the country making the Sunshine State their new home. The top originating states for newcomers are New York, Georgia and New Jersey.
Alaska, New York, Illinois and California are losing more than 10 people in a thousand
While some states are very well equipped to attract new residents, other states are seeing their populations decline at a rapid pace. Alaska and New York are the states people are leaving the most, with both losing almost 15 people per 1,000 residents, followed by Illinois and California, with more than 10 people leaving per 1,000 residents.
The reasons why these states see negative net migration may vary. In the case of Alaska, the state losing the most people as a share of population, it’s a combination of high living costs and challenging natural conditions. Moving out of California and New York, on the other hand, is mostly fueled by housing costs, combined with an exodus of corporations, who are generally looking for more tax-friendly states. Illinois, which recently lost a seat in the U.S. Congress due to population decline, is battling a combination of a lagging business climate and a high tax burden that persuades people to relocate to other areas of the country. Property tax in Illinois, at 2.2%, is the second highest nationally.
Economic prospects, lifestyle choices and regional dynamics all play pivotal roles in the ebb and flow of population changes. The long-term coastal powerhouses of the US are now exporting both population and economic potential to other states in a trend whose impact will be interesting to observe.
Top net-migration states are well supplied with self storage, and Idaho leads again
Moving is one of the top reasons people rent self storage and it’s what’s behind the development spree that’s overtaken some top net-migration states. Idaho matches its status as the most popular net-migration state with the most storage space per resident, no less than 16.3 square feet.
Self Storage Availability and Pricing in the US
|Rank||State||Self Storage (sq.ft. per capita)||Self Storage Street Rate (10x10 NCC)|
|46||District Of Columbia||2.1||$167|
|47||Vermont||No data||No data|
|48||Montana||No data||No data|
|49||North Dakota||No data||No data|
|50||West Virginia||No data||No data|
|51||Wyoming||No data||No data|
Many popular states’ storage inventories are also on an upward trajectory. Idaho again looks after its residents, having added more than half a square foot per capita in 2022 alone. Only South Dakota is more enthusiastic about storage — the three newcomers per thousand residents there got a whole extra square foot in 2022. Maine and Arizona lead other top-10 migration states who grew their storage inventories last year, adding 0.49 and 0.39 square feet per person.
Renting self storage as an extension of your home can sometimes prove more economical than buying a larger house. Self storage is much cheaper than residential space with a storage unit currently renting for an average of $127 per month. Nevada, Florida and Arizona charge no more than the national average, and in Idaho and Oklahoma such units rent for averages of less than $100. At the other extreme, states with particularly tight real estate markets also feature lower enthusiasm for storage development and that often translates in higher rates — New York and California both charge averages of $181.
Overall, high net migration motivates local storage sectors to grow their inventories, accommodating both new arrivals and existing residents, often with prices much below residential square footage.
What the experts are saying
Here are expert opinions on the domestic migration trends and the factors influencing them:
Emily Skop, PhD, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies,
University of Colorado
What are the primary driving forces behind the recent shifts in domestic migration?
The verdict is still out, but it appears as though the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on domestic migration. More people are moving to less-populated counties. And while more-populated counties are experiencing less net domestic migration, it doesn't necessarily mean that a large increase of people are leaving, rather we suspect that fewer people are moving to these more densely populated areas. We have yet to see if this is a temporary blip or something more. Ask me again in two-three years!
Has the rise of remote work changed where people choose to live within the US?
There is some anecdotal evidence that remote work is offering alternative choices to where people live within the US (i.e. the whole digital nomad idea — which also appears to be influencing whether workers decide to move from the U.S. to other countries). But we don't yet have enough data to say whether this has become more of a factor than traditional forces that influence domestic migration patterns such as regional political dynamics, housing markets, local amenities, work environments, and familial ties.
Will the current patterns continue, or are there emerging factors that could reshape migration in the coming years?
For years now, domestic migration patterns have been largely predictable, with the Sunbelt and larger urban conglomerates (and their suburbs) increasing the most. But there are many unknowns: certain housing markets will become even more expensive, labor markets will continually shift as a result of global uncertainties, water resources will become more restricted, human-caused natural disasters will become more frequent, and families will experience aging in a way never known before. So, we need to keep our eyes on the data, and for that matter, figure out better ways to capture migration trends so we can get a more accurate picture in the coming years.
Doug Ressler, Business Intelligence Manager, Yardi Matrix
Has the rise of remote work changed where people choose to live within the US?
The increased inclination toward remote work has become a significant factor in shaping current housing preferences. On the one hand, you have the aging millennials who are in prime homebuying years and seek more relaxed surroundings. For those spending more time at home, amenities such as a dedicated home office and a larger yard are increasingly desirable, which oftentimes means relocating farther away from busy urban hotspots. This is one of the main drivers of the massive flow to less densely populated locations like Idaho and Maine. Of those who moved from California to Idaho, for instance, 16% are working from home.
But on the other hand, there are the younger millennials and the Gen Zers who still value having an active social life, even when that means compromising on living space. Developers are delivering apartments with a single bedroom and a den or which have a small footprint but come with more expansive common areas. Working-from-anywhere in this case translates into urban-to-urban moving routes, often from former epicenters like San Francisco and San Jose to places that are still brimming with opportunities at a slightly lower cost of living, like Austin, Texas.
In all cases, the increase we’re seeing in household formation is only adding extra pressure on the housing market, amplifying the need to boost overall housing supply.
This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.
In this report, we ranked the country’s states based on the number of net newcomers per 1,000 residents. We also extracted the most popular moving routes for the top 10 states with the highest net migration as a share of population.
The migration numbers, as well as the income levels and demographic characteristics of the people moving across the country, come from the US Census.
To uncover the national domestic migration trends, we used the US Census American Community Survey population data from 2013 to 2022.
To determine state-to-state migration patterns, we turned to the US Census American Community Survey PUMS microdata for 2021.
We used the June 2023 unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We obtained median home prices at national and state levels based on 2021 owner-occupied housing unit values from the US Census.
We used data regarding apartment and self storage rent prices from Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe‘s sister division and a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.
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.