Migration is essential to the American way of life—people move seeking different climates, better job opportunities, cost of living, or to be closer to family. Long gone are the days of having to pack a covered wagon to venture across the country; commercial shippers are now the mode of choice.
For the last 45 years, United Van Lines has released its annual National Movers Study which offers a glimpse into the migration habits of Americans and the reasons behind their moves.
The study, which is released every January, found that in 2021 Americans moved to primarily to lower-density area in order to be closer to family.
Vermont topped the list as the state with the highest amount of inbound shipments in 2021 as 71% of shipments in the state were dedicated to inbound migration. This was the fourth year in a row the Green Mountain State topped the list as the most popular place to move to.
Following Vermont, South Dakota (69%), South Carolina (63%), West Virginia (63%), and Florida (62%) were also found to be the top inbound states for 2021
In terms of outbound migration habits, people tended to leave high-density areas such as New Jersey (71%), Illinois (67%), New York (63%), Connecticut (60%), and California (59%).
United Van Lines also asked movers why they were packing up their lives and what they were seeking.
Nationally, 31.8% of movers claimed they were moving in order to be closer to family, while 32.5% of movers were doing so in order to start a new job, drastically down from pre-pandemic times.
On a state level, the study found that the chief reason people chose to move to Florida was to retire (38.77%). It also found that people moving to Idaho did so seeking a lifestyle change (27.85%), people that moved to Michigan cited the need to be closer to family (48.18%), Washington D.C. was to start a new job (63.79%), New Jersey was for health or personal reasons (11.66%), or South Carolina seeking a lower cost of living (13.26%).
The amount of people moving due the pandemic also dropped in 2021. In 2020, the amount of movers claiming to move as a direct result of the pandemic was 15.1%, in 2021 this number dropped to 13.3%.
“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,” said Michael A. Stoll, Economist and Professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “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.”
“What’s more, amid the pandemic, many Gen Xers are retiring (often at a younger age than past generations), joining the Baby Boomer generation. While many are retiring to states like Florida, United Van Lines’ data reveals they’re not necessarily heading to heavily populated cities like Orlando and Miami—they’re venturing to less dense places like Punta Gorda (81% inbound), Sarasota (79% inbound) and Fort Myers-Cape Coral (77% inbound). Similarly, in Oregon, cities including Medford-Ashland (83%) and Eugene-Springfield (79%) saw high inbound migration in 2021.”
“For 45 years now, our annual United Van Lines study, with its data-driven insights, has allowed us to explore a deeper understanding of Americans’ overall migration patterns,” Eily Cummings, Director of Corporate Communications at United Van Lines, said. “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.”
Click here to view an interactive map of inbound/outbound shipments, including a state-level breakdown of data.