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Americans Moved West and South in 2020

Americans flocked West and South in 2020, with Idaho experiencing the most inbound moves and New Jersey seeing the most outbound exoduses amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to an annual study by the moving company United Van Lines.

The company's 44th annual study of customers' migration patterns – which considered states where at least 250 families moved through United Van Lines – shows that, unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 outbreak played a role in people's moving decisions. More than 25% of people who moved did so to be closer to family – a significant increase compared to previous years, according to the company.

For people who specifically cited the pandemic as an influence on their move, a majority of customers said it was due to concerns for personal and family health and well-being, a desire to be closer to family, and a change in work arrangements. All moving data related to COVID-19 came from between March and October 2020.

In terms of state trends, Idaho and New Jersey ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum for the second consecutive year. Idaho had the highest percentage of inbound migration at 70%, with more people saying they moved to the Gem State for cost-of-living reasons than any other state. New Jersey had the highest share of outbound moves at 70%, and it was the third straight year in which the state held that top spot.

Other states in the top 10 for inbound moves were South Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and Arizona – all with inbound migration percentages higher than 60%.

Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas appeared in the top 10 for inbound migration after falling lower in the rankings in 2019.

New York, Illinois, Connecticut and California rounded out the top five for outbound moves, with percentages at 59% or higher.

"United Van Lines' data makes it clear that migration to western and southern states, a prevalent pattern for the past several years, persisted in 2020," said Michael Stoll, an economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California—Los Angeles, in a news release. "However, we're seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt accelerated broader moving trends, including retirement driving top inbound regions as the Baby Boomer generation continues to reach that next phase of life."

Delaware, Florida and South Carolina were the states that saw the most inbound moves for retirement reasons. Two of those three – Florida and South Carolina – also appeared in the top 10 overall. Less-crowded cities such as Wilmington, North Carolina, and Boise, Idaho, were among those with high levels of inbound migration – 75% and higher – according to the United Van Lines data.

And many major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Chicago and Newark, New Jersey, saw high percentages of outbound moves throughout the pandemic, according to the report.

Click here for an interactive map of 2020 moves: US News Map

Written by: Elliott Davis for US News and World Report


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