A new study from United Van Lines found Americans moved to lower-density areas to be closer to their families in 2021.
The study, which uses data from the migration patterns of United Van Lines customers, found Vermont and South Dakota had the highest inbound migration, at 74% and 69%, respectively. South Carolina (63%), West Virginia (63%), and Florida (62%) also had high inbound migration rates.
New Jersey had the highest number of people moving out of the state, at 71%, for the fourth year in a row. Illinois (67%), New York (63%), Connecticut (60%), and California (59%) also saw high outbound migration.
Kentucky and Wyoming were among several “balanced” states that saw similar numbers of people moving in and out.
Respondents to the survey most often cited family as their primary motivation for moving, with 31.8% saying they moved to be closer to their loved ones. Only 32.5% of respondents said they moved for a new job or job transfer, down from 60% in 2015.
“This new data from United Van Lines is indicative of COVID-19’s impact on domestic migration patterns, with 2021 bringing an acceleration of moves to smaller, midsized towns and cities,” Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said.
“We’re seeing this not only occur because of Americans’ desire to leave high-density areas due to risk of infection, but also due to the transformation of how we’re able to work, with more flexibility to work remote.”
“We are seeing a trend in my area of people moving outward and a few factors are driving this,” Elizabeth Rose of Mortgage 300 in Dallas told The Mortgage Note.
“People are looking to change or improve their living situation based on working from home. Many people are working from their kitchen table because they don’t have home office space. They are looking for housing that can offer that. If they have been living in a city for work and find they don’t have to commute anymore and are seeking a home with a backyard or something like that.”
The study also zoomed in on specific towns where individuals moved. It noted retiring Gen Xers moved to heavily populated states like Florida but often chose less populated areas. Towns like Punta Gorda (81% inbound), Sarasota (79% inbound), and Fort Myers-Cape Coral (77% inbound) saw higher rates of retirees moving in than big cities like Orlando and Miami.
“As the pandemic continues to impact our day-to-day, we’re seeing that lifestyle changes — including the increased ability to work from home — and wanting to be closer to family, are key factors in why Americans are moving today,” Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications at United Van Lines, said.
The South and West have been booming this year as Americans who can now work from home factor affordability into their choices. Many of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. are in Texas. The most recent census data puts Phoenix, Ariz. as number one in overall population growth.
West Virginia, South Dakota, and South Carolina, which rank high in United Van Lines’ study, are among the cheapest states by median home price.