Americans moved eastbound and southbound — and relocated to less expensive areas with big city amenities last year, according to United Van Lines’ 47th Annual National Movers Study. The annual report tracks the company’s exclusive data for customers’ state-to-state migration patterns.
For the third consecutive year, more residents moved to Vermont than any other state with 65% of moves being inbound, according to the study. Of moves to Vermont, moving to be closer to family (29%) led the reason for relocating to the state, followed by a lifestyle change (20%).
In the Southeast, several states — including South Carolina (63%), North Carolina (60%) and Alabama (60%) — continue to increase in popularity with a high percentage of inbound moves. In alignment with this trend, Arkansas (60%) and West Virginia (58%) significantly increased in ranking and joined the list of top inbound states in 2023.
“We are continuing to see the trend that Americans are moving to more affordable, lower-density areas across the country, with many heading to Southern states,” said United Van Lines Vice President of Corporate Communications Eily Cummings. “Movers are also becoming more strategic with their planning, as relocation continues to be driven by factors such as the price of housing, regional climates, urban planning and job growth.”
New to the 2023 top inbound list are Arkansas, which moved up from #18 in 2022 to #4 in 2023; and West Virginia, which moved up from #13 in 2022 to #10 in 2023.
2023 Top 10 Inbound States*
- Washington, DC
- South Carolina
- Rhode Island
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
States with less than 55% of moves by United Van Lines, rather inbound or outbound, increased in 2023 as fewer Americans relocated compared to the previous year, according to the study. Several states also saw nearly the same number of residents moving inbound as outbound. Nevada and Utah were among these “balanced states.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic influenced decisions to move and accelerated existing moving patterns in 2020, mostly driven by the opportunity to work remotely, the desire to be closer to family and better affordability,” said Michael A. Stoll, Economist and Professor in The Department of Public Policy at The University of California, Los Angeles. “Some Americans may be faced with economic uncertainty, coupled with an increased cost of living and lack of affordable housing. This can result in adjustments to moving timelines or people making interstate moves, rather than across states.”
Metro Area Trends
Metro areas with more outbound moves than inbound moves tended to experience less growth in their working-age population in the same year. The study and its accompanying survey, which examines the motivations and influences for Americans’ interstate moves, revealed the leading motivation behind these migration patterns and across all regions is a career change — with 29% of movers relocating for a new job or company transfer.
The leading motivation behind these migration patterns and across all regions is a career change – with 29% of movers relocating for a new job or company transfer.
Additionally, the survey shows the top motivations for moves — such as wanting to be closer to family (27%) and retirement (14%) — have declined compared to 2022 as movers consider other important factors related to location preferences, the cost of living and affordable housing.
Zillow Senior Economist Orphe Divounguy examined the relationship between the United Van Lines move data and the current housing market, which revealed affordability is the most significant consideration for home buyers and sellers planning to relocate.
The study shows movers tend to relocate to less expensive metro areas that are likely to see less competition in the housing market. Charlotte, NC and Indianapolis, IN were among the top markets for net inbound moves by United Van Lines, of the 50 largest metro areas by population. A deeper analysis from Zillow explores how these migration patterns impact home value and regional population growth.