Which States Gained and Lost the Most People From Moving Last Year? We Break It Down

Posted in: I'm a Mover, Moving Industry News

[Synopsis: As United, Atlas reveal their annual migration stats, states try to explain themselves.]

United Van Lines has done it again!

They’ve released their nationwide migration statistics for the year, that is. And right off the bat, we see some small surprises.

Moving in

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 8.41.31 AM

Oregon has had a firm grip on the top inbound slot for several years, but in 2016 they’ve slipped to #3, bested by South Dakota and Vermont, normally two of the most unassuming states in the entire union.

Moving Out

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 8.41.37 AMThe tri-state contingent of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut can always be counted on to top the outbound ranks, and this year is no exception – although Illinois crashes the party by finishing 2nd, while Kansas sheds its on-again-off-again outbound standing by coming in a solid 5th.

The coolest part of United’s announcement of their survey results is their interactive map, where you can click through the past forty years of stats to see the changes in moving trends.

Some cool observations

Kansas has actually NEVER been an inbound state, while Florida has never ranked as outbound. You may or may not be surprised to know that California, after a brief inbound spell in the late ’80s and a strong outbound flow in the first half of the ’90s, has remained solidly balanced (except for an outbound blip in 2005 when, perhaps coincidentally, Governor Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings were plummeting).

Feel free to spot additional patterns and quirks that have occurred over the last forty years. But be warned: after a few minutes of clicking back and forth your eyes might start going batty.

What’s the Motive Behind the Moves?

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 8.49.32 AMAside from just the overall numbers, United takes their annual look into the reasons for their customers’ migrations. This has led them to declare that more retirees than ever are deciding to relocate, often to the West and Northwest. “Interestingly enough,” says economist and UCLA Department of Public Policy chair Michael Stoll, “retirees are leaving at such a fast pace that the movement of Millennials to urban areas in the Midwest and Northeast is being overshadowed.” (Emphasis ours.)

There are two ways to interpret this.

#1: There’s an apparent trend where Millennials are moving to the Midwest and Northeast.

#2: It seems reasonable to think more retirees would use United’s services, while the hordes of mobile Millennials would be utilizing a more flexible and cheaper option – like DIY moving and HireAHelper.

While health, family and lifestyle all play a part in people’s moves, employment and retirement are the two most common. Try this: test your knowledge of your potential customer base by guessing what reasons most people gave for moving in and out of your state – then click on United’s map to see if you were right!

Atlas reported their numbers too

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 8.54.25 AMAtlas Van Lines is in the migration-tracking game too, once again including their hard numbers in their state-by-state display of inbound, outbound and balanced states. (Click to enlarge the image.) They also include Canada’s provinces, letting us know that just like last year the Yukon had zero moves in and zero moves out – which makes us wonder if anyone actually lives there at all.

We don’t have to look too hard to see the discrepancies between United’s and Atlas’s findings.

While United had South Dakota and New Jersey as their top inbound and outbound states respectively, Atlas had neither of them in either of their top ten. And how did Alaska rank as Atlas’s 5th inbound state, did they run a special on moves to Anchorage or something?

Obviously, the numbers differ between surveys. But what’s more interesting is how individual states digest and regurgitate those numbers.

The States Weigh In

templateConnecticut – The Hartford Courant seems game to take an honest look at their outbound standing, bolstering United’s findings with a US Census Bureau bit about Connecticut suffering an overall population drop for the third straight year. Without going into detail, they report that the issue “has stoked fierce and partisan debate.” Then, perhaps in an attempt to steer the subject in a less volatile direction, they offer this map that purportedly shows where people who are leaving the state are going. (For added confusion they leave it to us to figure out what those varying shades of blue represent.)

New York – The Empire State admits to their poor showing in United’s survey as well. “About 38 percent of those leaving the state had incomes of $150,000 or more,” reports NewYorkUpstate.com, adding that “about 42 percent of those moving to the state earn $150,000 or more.”

Well la-dee-da.

Plus, NYup tells us, New York is the “fourth most populous state in the nation.” And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “the state has added 367,1179 residents since 2010.” This while ignoring the fact that the state’s population decreased from 2015 to 2016, according to the data they themselves refer to.

Illinois – Meanwhile the Land of Lincoln takes quite the opposite approach, flogging themselves online by pointing out that by combining United’s and Atlas’s survey results, Illinois ranks as having the highest outbound to inbound ratio in the entire country. Illinois Policy points out the state’s “surging debts, rising property taxes, weak job creation and political dysfunction” as reasons for the emigration.

Illinois further insults themselves by pointing out that while overall number two outbound New York has 7 million more people, Illinois virtually matched them in their actual inbound-outbound deficit total.

Pennsylvania – PA offers this astute take on their outbound status: “Whatever the reason, more people are moving out of Pennsylvania than into it.”

Excellent insight, guys.

But then they introduce us to Luke Shively, relocation consultant and Pennsylvania Storage and Moving board member. “Shively said many of the customers he sees on a daily basis have retired and are moving to warmer climates, or are leaving for better jobs in states with more favorable tax structures,”  the Central Penn Business Journal relates. “I believe that Pennsylvania’s above-average age demographics, combined with considerably higher-than-average taxes, are strong drivers of outbound tonnage eclipsing inbound tonnage.”

Texas – Down in the Lone Star State people like to talk big, even as their beloved Texas fell from the “inbound” into the “balanced” category for the first time in Atlas survey history. “There were still more people that moved to Texas rather than moved from Texas in 2016,” the Dallas Business Journal tells us. Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle is quick to point out that “In December, the U.S. Census Bureau released figures showing Texas added more people from July 2015 to July 2016 than any other state.”


Sounds legit, until you see that United also has a full two-thirds of people moving OUT of Texas for jobs.

Take Away

youngmoverRemember, though, that all these numbers are coming from that segment of the population using full-service moving companies. But the Millennials are the ones who now make up the biggest chunk of the population – and it’s especially within this segment of the population where full moving companies see little business.

In other words, enjoy the numbers! Just don’t get too hung up on them. Hybrid moving has their own stats to create.


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