BAM Key Details: 

  • A new report from StorageCafe shows four of the top ten U.S. states for net migration are in the mountain west states, led by Idaho. 
  • Migrating buyers are largely motivated by the desire for more space, combined with other financial incentives. 
  • While the West and South make up the majority of the top ten, the Northeast also claims a couple of spots, with Vermont at #2. 

Moving is not easy. And anyone who’s ever moved from one state to another can tell you it’s no picnic—especially if you’re the one driving the moving truck to your new home. 

Yet while migration has slowed overall, state-to-state migration has stepped up, with many migrating homebuyers motivated by the quest for more living space, combined with financial incentives like a lower cost of living and a stronger job market. 

In fact, about 7.9 million buyers relocated to a different state in 2021, and a record 8.2 million did the same in 2022. That’s according to a new report by StorageCafe, which highlights the top ten states for net migration, as well as the states losing the most people. 

With its wide open spaces and less expensive lifestyle, the Mountain West region of the U.S. has drawn more newcomers than any other region, with Idaho leading the way. 

For every 1,000 residents, about 25 new people moved to Idaho in 2021—five times the number of newcomers to Texas that same year.

Next in line is the South, led by South Carolina and Tennessee, thanks to their thriving economies and relatively affordable housing. 

The Northeast also made the top ten list, with Vermont ranking at #2 for net migration. 

Meanwhile, the states seeing double-digit negative net migration include Alaska, New York, Illinois, and California. California also happens to be the number one origin state for those migrating to Idaho. Rounding out the top three are Washington and Colorado. 

StorageCafe-How-many-people-in-the-US-move-each-year-chart

Source: StorageCafe

The biggest factors behind interstate migration

To see which states are seeing the biggest impact from recent migration trends, StorageCafe analyzed all 50 states and Washington, D.C., using state-level data from the 2012 American Community Survey. They ranked each by the number of net newcomers per 1,000 residents. 

Getting the full picture meant examining several key indicators for states of origin as well as destinations to uncover the biggest drivers behind state-to-state migration in 2020 and 2021. 

While Western and Southern states together took the majority of spots on the top ten list, New England also emerged as a strong contender, with Vermont at #2 and Maine at #5. 

Top ten states ranked by net migration: 

  1. Idaho (Net migration rate of 24.54)
  2. Vermont (23.99)
  3. Montana (17.91)
  4. South Carolina (15.09)
  5. Maine (15.07)
  6. Nevada (14.46)
  7. Arizona (12.49)
  8. North Dakota (12.32)
  9. Tennessee (9.91)
  10. Oklahoma (9.63)

Western mountain states take four of the top ten spots, with Idaho at #1

The job and housing markets have always been two of the biggest factors behind interstate migration. 

That didn’t change with the COVID pandemic; if anything, the normalization of remote work made moving to other states more prevalent—hence the record-breaking migration in 2022. 

While the ten states with the highest net migration stand out for their rich culture and breathtaking natural landscapes, they also share some characteristics that have become deal-breakers for buyers in search of a fresh start. 

Most of them share qualities that make for a relaxed lifestyle: 

  • Roomier living space (indoor and/or outdoor)
  • Healthy job market
  • Favorable tax climate
  • Strong connection to nature
  • Slower pace of life

Four of the top ten states are in the Mountain West region: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Arizona. At number one, Idaho saw its population grow by more than 13% from 2016 to 2021, giving it the highest growth rate of all 50 states for that five-year period.

Baby boomers account for 35% of the Californians migrating to Idaho, highlighting the latter as a desirable retirement location. It helps that median housing prices in California are 76% higher than in Idaho, making it easier for retirees to make the most of their retirement savings. 

Over half (about 55%) of the Californians migrating to Idaho purchase a home in their first year of living there. 

New England ranks high, with Vermont at #2

Vermont ranks second in the country for net migration, with 25 newcomers for every 1,000 residents. The top origin states are New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. 

Vermont is not an inexpensive place to live, but the former residents of those origin states typically find it more affordable than their previous home. For example, the median home price in Vermont is $210K lower than the median price in Connecticut. 

Maine ranks at number five, with 15 newcomers per 1,000 residents. The most common origin states are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, and Florida, with baby boomers accounting for 63% of migrating Floridians. 

Both Vermont and Maine rank at the top of all 50 states for housing inventory, with 0.52 and 0.54 housing units per person, respectively. Washington, D.C., sits in the middle with 0.53 housing units per capita. 

StorageCafe-States-ranked-by-housing-inventory-table

Source: StorageCafe

Southern states draw newcomers with more affordable housing

South Carolina ranks at number three on the top ten list, with 15 newcomers for every 1,000 residents. Tennessee and Oklahoma take ninth and tenth place, respectively. All three states offer newcomers more affordable real estate, along with thriving economies. 

The most common origin states for South Carolina are Georgia and North Carolina, though Florida, Virginia, and California also contribute newcomers. Considering the median home value in South Carolina is $209K, moving to this state can save former California residents a whopping $436K. 

Florida ranks at number 11, with 9.54 newcomers for every 1,000 residents, falling just below Oklahoma’s net migration rate of 9.63 and drawing a net inflow of 208K people in 2021. 

Meanwhile, Alaska, New York, Illinois, and California lose more than 10 people per 1,000

Alaska and New York lead the states people are leaving the most; both are losing almost 15 people for every 1,000 residents. People leaving Alaska do so largely because of its high cost of living and its challenging natural environment. 

Those leaving California and New York are driven mostly by housing costs, along with the exodus of corporations moving to states with lower taxes. Illinois is suffering from a stagnant business climate and a heavy tax burden, with the second highest property tax in the U.S. 

StorageCafe-Mapping-net-migration-map

Source: StorageCafe

Read the full, detailed report on StorageCafe for more information.