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Americans who seek a higher quality of life cast their votes not with a ballot, but with their feet. Each year, people all across the United States relocate to different states for a variety of reasons, be it retirement, a new job, living closer to family, or anything else. Survey data from United Van Lines made it clear Americans have strong opinions about many states, with some being winners and others coming out as major losers. The results may surprise you.
This is one of the few states on the list where the total inflow of people still exceeds the amount of people who are leaving the state. In 2019, 50.2% of Oklahoma movers were coming into the state, with 49.8% leaving for greener pastures.
Most people coming in and out of the state tend to be making their move due to jobs, with 54% of new residents citing a job as their reason for moving there, while 64% of people leaving the state claim a new job was the reason for their departure.
One of the bigger surprises on this list is Georgia, a state whose inflow of movers hovered at just 51.2% in 2019. Atlanta has added thousands of jobs in recent years, with several Fortune 500 companies like Delta, The Home Depot, and even Coca-Cola setting up headquarters in Georgia’s capital city.
But despite the job growth, more people are leaving the state to improve their lifestyle, be with family, and/or retire. More people are moving to Georgia than leaving the state, but the state’s 2019 numbers don’t inspire much hope for the future.
2019 was not a friendly year to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It was the first time since 2015 that the state saw more people leave to move elsewhere than arrive to make Minnesota their home. The Gopher State’s three-year stretch of positive inflow was encouraging, but it seems the state isn’t all it was made out to be.
For one, weather can play a major factor in people’s decision to move. Minnesota is one of the coldest states in the country, and many retirees are deciding they’d rather relax in a different state — hopefully, one with a little more sunshine.
The state of Pennsylvania has been just about even in terms of inbound and outbound movers over the years. In 2019, however, 51.2% of Pennsylvania residents made the decision to leave the state. The state boasts a good cost of living and plenty of jobs, but numerous retirees decided they’d rather leave the state than stay.
Pennsylvania appears to be a popular state for young adults, with inbound moving of residents up to age 44 heavily outpacing outbound moves. But people aged 45 and older are leaving the state at a much higher rate than they’re coming in.
Not only is Rhode Island the smallest state by area in the U.S., but it’s also having a tough time keeping residents from moving away. Rhode Islanders say that it can be hard to find a good job in the state — and it isn’t possible to stay there without one.
More than 24% of people leaving the state are doing so to retire elsewhere, while just over 5% of Rhode Island incomers cite retirement as the reason for their move. The cost of living is just too high for many people to justify living there.
The Magnolia State is going through a rough time. Mississippi offers Southern culture and some great people, but it also suffers from the highest rate of unemployment of any state in the country. And as if that wasn’t frustrating enough, the hot, humid weather can be very difficult to endure.
A shocking takeaway from the 2019 survey data? Six percent of the people leaving Mississippi cite health as a reason for their departure, whereas only 3% of arrivals mention health as the reason for their move. America’s Health Rankings says Mississippi is the least healthy state in the country.
Another state that struggles with poverty is Arkansas. The state’s nickname is The Land of Opportunity, but nearly 77% of people leaving the state mention a job as the reason for the move. Compared with just over 48% of new residents moving to Arkansas for a new job, that paints a dim picture for future residents.
On the bright side, Arkansas seems to be an affordable place to retire. More than 19% of new Arkansas residents are retirees, with less than 5% of people leaving the state listing retirement as the reason for their departure.
Though its moving statistics are trending in the right direction, Maine is still trying to prove itself to potential future residents. 2019 was the first year of the 2010s where Maine’s new-resident population outnumbered the people who left the state. Still, just 50.2% of Maine movers came to the state, with 49.8% leaving it.
Maine winters are cold, with enough snow and wind to make any resident wonder whether there are greener pastures elsewhere. This is particularly evident with people aged 65 or older, which make up more than 43% of the state’s outbound movers.
The city of St. Louis — and to an extent, the state of Missouri — is famous for the arch that dominates the city’s skyline. For that reason, the city has earned the nickname of “The Gateway to the West.” Unfortunately, the state of Missouri seems to be a gateway to other states of residence.
More people move out of Missouri than move into the state every year. Jobs are a major reason for a majority of the moves, with extreme weather and lifestyle choices being other factors.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that North Dakota is one of America’s least populous states. For every retiree who moves to North Dakota, nearly two of them leave the state. Simply put, there just isn’t much the state can offer that nearby states can’t.
North Dakota is known for being a state with good job growth, but part of that is due to the fact that people simply don’t want to live in the state. The quality of life in The Peace Garden State definitely falls short of amazing. North Dakota is one of the coldest states in the U.S., and its biggest city is home to fewer than 150,000 people.
Though it is often referred to as one of the best states for retirees, Virginia still watches more people leave the state than arrive virtually every year. Ironically, more retirees decide to leave Virginia for retirement than move there.
Virginia boasts beaches, mountains, and even low taxes, but the state continues to lose residents each and every year. People over the age of 55 are moving out of the state at a much more significant pace than those who are joining its ranks.
Unlike many other states on this list, Utah is actually a popular destination among retirees. The state’s incoming retirees nearly double the amount of people who are moving elsewhere for retirement. Where the state really struggles is with retaining young people.
Young people are leaving the state much more than they’re arriving, with a significant percentage of that population citing jobs as the reason for their moves. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the people leaving the state do so for job-related reasons.
The Mountain State is known for its coal, which may explain some of the trends when it comes to people entering and leaving the state. Because as it turns out, middle-aged people seem to enjoy West Virginia more than any other age demographic.
When it comes to people aged 18 to 34, West Virginia residents are leaving the state in droves. And many people aged 65 and over are making similar decisions to leave the state. Some experts believe the state’s opioid crisis is having a significant impact on its sluggish job market.
Aside from famous investor Warren Buffet, not many notable people live in the state of Nebraska. Perhaps that’s for good reason. As residents of the state joke, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.”
The Cornhusker State has dealt with what some call a “brain drain,” which stems from a lack of high-paying jobs. Most jobs in the state are of the minimum-wage, no-experience-required type, and as a result, many people are leaving for greener pastures.
The Bluegrass State has one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States. And according to a study conducted by United Van Lines, more than half of all people leaving the state are doing so for reasons that relate to their job.
While many of Kentucky’s neighboring states are raising the minimum wage, Kentucky’s remains at a depressing $7.25 an hour. In 2019, lawmakers finally began to push for an increased minimum wage, but only time will tell whether that change comes.
As is the case with many states on this list, Wisconsin deals with some pretty brutal weather. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, all but five winters in the state’s entire recorded weather history hit temperatures of at least 30 degrees below zero.
As if the ridiculous weather isn’t enough of a reason for people to move, the state also doesn’t meet residents’ expectations in the health department. More than 4.5% of people leaving the state cite health as the reason for their moves.
Known for being a state with a rich history, outdoor adventures, and a good quality of life, Maryland may come as a surprise on this list. But plenty of negative factors give pause to potential residents and even cause people to leave the state.
For starters, the cost of living in Maryland is very high. Health care costs are above average, taxes can be exorbitant, and home prices have been on the rise for years. Worst of all, Maryland has been said to be the very worst state for retirees.
The state of Michigan has struggled to keep residents within its borders for quite some time. Some residents complain that while the state offers some good work opportunities, the pay is far from satisfactory — with some salaries under $20,000 per year, according to Bridge Magazine.
The state may have thousands of miles of coastline, but retirees aren’t fooled. The frigid temperatures drive retirees out of the state, with nearly a quarter of all outbound movers citing retirement as a reason for their move. Nearly 57% of all 2019 Michigan moves involved residents leaving the state.
Arguably one of the most gorgeous states in the United States, Montana is a favorite among A-list celebrities and wealthy out-of-staters. The only problem? The state isn’t a very popular place to live. It’s one of very few states on this list where the leading cause of outbound moves is to be closer to family.
Montana’s cost of living used to be one of the best in the U.S., but it has gone up in recent years. Not only that, but it can be hard to find quality housing and jobs within the state. And with just 2.3 doctors per 1,000 residents, health can be a bit of an issue, too.
No matter what the pros of living in Iowa are, the state will always have to deal with its reputation of being a boring place to live. Even though the state’s job market is growing, many employers are unable to pay what companies pay in other states. As a result, 55% of all Iowa moves involve people leaving the state.
While more than 61% of inbound movers cite a job as the reason for making Iowa their home, a shocking 68% of people leaving the state are doing so for a better job. Retirement is another big reason for outbound moves, making up more than 12% of that population.
The Aloha State is easily one of America’s most beautiful states, as well as one of its most popular tourism destinations. But the sky-high cost of living is one of many reasons most Americans choose to limit their stay to about a week or so.
The cost of living on the islands, especially Oahu, has skyrocketed in recent years, effectively pricing out a large percentage of the state’s population. Hawaii may be a beautiful place, but one thing is for sure: It ain’t cheap.
When it comes to affordability, Massachusetts may well be the most unaffordable state in the country. The state’s cost of living — particularly with housing — is astronomical. Lifelong residents love the state’s culture and education system, but many are forced to move due to how expensive it is.
Tack on harsh East Coast winters and terrible traffic congestion, and it’s easy to see why nearly 55% of all Massachusetts moves involve people leaving leaving the state.
The Buckeye State is inviting at face value. It offers a pretty affordable cost of living, a welcoming Midwestern culture, and a couple of great universities. But unfortunately, the state faces a number of problems that have contributed to many people leaving Ohio.
Winters in the Midwest can be brutal, and Ohio is no exception. But bad weather is one thing — the state also struggles with unequal access to good health care, relatively high unemployment, and slow job growth. More than 6 out of 10 people who leave the state say they leave for reasons related to their career.
The state of Louisiana hasn’t dominated headlines since it was tragically devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And while the state eventually rebounded from the natural disaster, it still has a ways to go in terms of improving livability.
Residents of Louisiana pay some of the highest taxes in the country, with the nation’s second-highest average combined sales tax at 9.46%. More than 70% of people leaving the state are doing so to find a new job. That’s a staggering figure.
“There’s no place like home.” Dorothy’s famous words from The Wizard of Oz may have rung true on the big screen, but in real life, living in Kansas can be pretty rough. The state has its positives, but people have been leaving the state rapidly in recent years.
Kansas is affordable and comfortable, and the state even boasts a low unemployment rate — just 3.2% in August 2019. But despite this, more people are leaving the state for jobs than entering. Unfortunately, the state’s positives don’t outweigh the bad weather, risk of tornadoes, and lack of interesting things to do.
The state of Connecticut is home to quite a few large employers, including more than 600 companies that employ at least 10 people. But despite the state’s uniquely stable job market, 63% of Connecticut movers are leaving the state.
More than five times as many people are leaving the state for retirement than entering it, which is an indication that the state’s level of comfort and security isn’t worth the hefty price tag that comes along with it.
To some, New York is the best place to live. New York City itself offers the most unique (and arguably best) style of living, culture, sports, jobs, arts, and food of any city in the United States. But to just as many people, living in New York isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Along with New York’s high quality of life comes bad weather, taxes among the highest in the country, and job scarcity in some of the state’s more rural areas. According to Bloomberg, close to 300 people move out of New York City every single day.
Home to great farm produce, top colleges, an abundance of sports teams to root for, and amazing food, Illinois (and its largest city, Chicago) seems like a great place to live. But the state’s economy has priced out tons of residents, with unemployment on the rise and sky-high taxes.
Residents of Illinois pay the second-most in property taxes of any state, which has caused the state’s wealthiest people, job seekers, and retirees to lead an exodus out of the state. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the state’s brutal winters and bumper-to-bumper traffic don’t make matters any better.
The rate at which people are moving out of New Jersey is the highest of any state in the country. This isn’t new territory for the state, as according to United Van Lines’ annual study, New Jersey has been one of the top 10 states people have been leaving in each of the past 10 years.
More than a third of the people leaving the state do so due to job opportunities elsewhere, and roughly the same percentage leave to retire. Unemployment is down and wages are going up in the state, but its high cost of living, taxes, and notoriously awful roads are just a few of many factors that lead residents to find a new home.
People have very divided opinions about California. On one hand, the state boasts some of the best weather in the country, beautiful scenery, great food, and some amazing cities. On the other hand, the state deals with a variety of issues that are driving residents away.
California has some of the highest taxes in the country, an incredibly high cost of living, and worst of all, astronomical housing prices that make the idea of purchasing a home seem virtually impossible. The state used to be a destination for retirees; now, other states in the Pacific West and Mountain West are taking California’s place.