NEW JERSEY – United Van Lines has released the company’s 44th Annual National Migration Study, revealing in 2020, Americans continued to move westbound and southbound – and the COVID-19 pandemic factored into and accelerated many of those decisions to move.

According to the study, which tracks the company’s exclusive data for customers’ 2020 state-to-state migration patterns, Idaho was the state with the highest percentage of inbound migration (70%) among states experiencing more than 250 moves* with United Van Lines for the second consecutive year. Topping the list of outbound locations was New Jersey (70% outbound), which has held the spot for the past three years. The other states in the Tri-State area also New York (67%) and Connecticut (63%) were among the states experiencing the largest exoduses. 

Retirement was the most often cited reason for leaving New Jersey, followed by family, job, and lifestyle. Of the people leaving New Jersey, 85% were ages 55 and older, and nearly 62% were over age 65. People both rich and poor are looking for greener pastures. New Jerseyans with incomes of $0 to $49,999 represented 26.31% of the people leaving the state. Meanwhile, people with income levels of $75,000 to $99,999, $100,000 to $149,999, and $150,000 or more all accounted for 21.% of the moves.

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Inbound
Reason for Moving
Outbound
6.78%
Retirement
32.25%
5.93%
Health
4.18%
35.59%
Family
27.84%
6.78%
Lifestyle
19.03%
46.61%
Job
22.74%
     
Inbound
Age Range
Outbound
7.46%
<18 to 34
2.94%
5.97%
35 to 44
8.82%
8.96%
45 to 54
2.94%
32.84%
55 to 64
23.53%
44.78%
65 or older
61.77%
     
Inbound
Income Level
Outbound
14.28%
$0 to $49,999
26.31%
9.52%
$50,000 to $74,999
10.53%
9.52%
$75,000 to $99,999
21.05%
30.95%
$100,000 to $149,999
21.05%
35.71%
$150,000 or more
21.05%

Among the top inbound states were South Carolina (64%), Oregon (63%), South Dakota (62%) and Arizona (62%).

United Van Lines also conducts a survey examining the reasons behind Americans’ migration patterns as a companion to the study’s findings. This year’s survey results indicated 40% of Americans who moved did so for a new job or job transfer (down from prior years), and more than one in four (27%) moved to be closer to family (which is significantly up over prior years).

Data from March to October 2020 also revealed the COVID-19 pandemic influenced Americans’ decisions to move. For customers who cited COVID-19 as an influence on their move in 2020, the top reasons associated with COVID-19 were concerns for personal and family health and wellbeing (60%); desires to be closer to family (59%); 57% moved due to changes in employment status or work arrangement (including the ability to work remotely); and 53% desired a lifestyle change or improvement of quality of life.

“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 A. Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at UCLA. “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.”

For retirement, Delaware experienced more inbound moves than any other state at 41%, followed by Florida (39%) and South  Carolina (38.5%). Minnesota led the list of states people moved to for family (41%), and Wyoming was the top state for a lifestyle change with an inbound percentage upwards of 29. More people migrated to Nebraska (72%) for a new job or job transfer than any other state, and more people moved to Idaho (11%) due to the cost of living than any other state.

Throughout the pandemic in 2020, major metropolitan areas and hotspots, such as New York City (72%), Newark (72%) and Chicago (69%), experienced greater outbound migration, while lower-density cities like Wilmington, North Carolina (79%) and Boise, Idaho (75%) saw high levels of inbound moves.

“Each year, our United Van Lines study provides critical insights into broader migration patterns and Americans’ moving motivations. As the largest household goods mover in the country, United Van Lines’ data-driven insights uniquely point to national trends and, this year particularly, the resounding impact of COVID-19 on moving choices and the moving industry,” said Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications at United Van Lines. “For example, as more people experience job and lifestyle changes amid the pandemic like remote working, we’re seeing they have more flexibility in where they can live – many choosing to move from urban to more rural areas.”

Moving Out

The top outbound states for 2020 were:

  1. New Jersey
  2. New York
  3. Illinois  
  4. Connecticut
  5. California
  6. Kansas
  7. North Dakota
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Ohio
  10. Maryland

Moving In

The top inbound states (with 250 moves or more) of 2020 were:

  1. Idaho
  2. South Carolina
  3. Oregon
  4. South Dakota
  5. Arizona
  6. North Carolina
  7. Tennessee
  8. Alabama
  9. Florida
  10. Arkansas

Since 1977, United Van Lines annually tracks migration patterns on a state-by-state basis. The 2020 study is based on household moves handled by United within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. and ranks states based off the inbound and outbound percentages of total moves in each state. United classifies states as “high inbound” if 55 percent or more of the moves are going into a state, “high outbound” if 55 percent or more moves were coming out of a state or “balanced” if the difference between inbound and outbound is negligible. To access the study details and creative assets, use the link to the press kit at the top of the page.