Survey Probes Why People Moved in 2021

We’ve heard a lot during the pandemic about people moving into Southwest Michigan, often from the Chicago area, to escape urban living and enjoy the amenities of life in Michigan’s Great Southwest.  But when you “zoom out” a bit, it appears Michigan as a state has been on the ‘losing’ side of the move-in/move out equation.

United Van Lines  for decades has been surveying people who move and asking them “why?”  In 2021, Michigan was the sixth-highest ranking state for residents leaving.

A third of those who left Michigan told UVL they were leaving for job or employment reasons.  28% cited “family considerations.”  27% were retiring and moving (presumably to a warmer place!)   Six per cent cited health factors and two per cent complained about the cost of living as they exited Michigan.

Here is a ‘deeper dive’ on the national Why We Moved survey from United Van Lines:

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United Van Lines 45th Annual National Movers Study indicates Americans were on the move to lower-density areas and to be closer to their families throughout last year.

The annual study, which tracks the company’s exclusive data for customers’ state-to-state migration patterns, determined Vermont as the state with the highest percentage of inbound migration (74%) with United Van Lines. Topping the list of outbound locations was New Jersey (71%), which has held the spot for the past four years.

South Dakota (69%), South Carolina (63%), West Virginia (63%) and Florida (62%) were also revealed as the top inbound states for 2021. Meanwhile, states like Illinois (67%), New York (63%), Connecticut (60%) and California (59%), which have regularly appeared on the top outbound list in recent years, again ranked among states with the largest exoduses.

In addition to the state-by-state data, each year United Van Lines also conducts an accompanying survey to examine the motivations and influences for Americans’ interstate moves. This year’s survey results indicated 31.8% of Americans who moved did so in order to be closer to family – a new trend coming out of the pandemic as priorities and lifestyle choices shift. Additionally, 32.5% of Americans moved for a new job or job transfer, a significant decrease from 2015, when more than 60% of Americans cited a job or transfer.

“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,” Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said. “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.

Moving In
The top inbound states of 2021 were:

South Dakota
South Carolina
West Virginia
Rhode Island
Of the top ten inbound states, six — Vermont, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alabama, Oregon and Idaho — are among the 20 least densely populated states in America, with less than 100 people per square mile. And, Tennessee and South Carolina are among the top 25.

Moving Out
The top outbound states for 2021 were:

New Jersey
New York