Courtesy United Van Lines

Moving company United Van Lines released its 47th annual National Movers Study, indicating Americans are moving eastbound and southbound and relocating to less expensive areas with comparable amenities to larger cities.

For the third consecutive year, more residents moved to Vermont than any other state, with 65% of moves being inbound. 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%).

However, for the sixth consecutive year, the study found more residents moved out of New Jersey than any other state, with 65% of outbound moves. The top motivation for moves out of the state was driven primarily from those looking to retire (27%).

In the Southeast region, 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 addition, Arkansas (60%) and West Virginia (58%) significantly increased in ranking and joined the list of top inbound states in 2023.

Conversely, in the Midwest and West regions, an outbound moving trend continues. Illinois (61%), Michigan (58%), and California (58%) were all included among the top states with a high percentage of outbound moves in 2023. North Dakota (61%) and Kansas (55%) significantly decreased in ranking and joined the top outbound states last year.

"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," says 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."

Courtesy United Van Lines

According to the results of the study, the top inbound states of 2023 were:

  1. Vermont
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arkansas
  5. Rhode Island
  6. North Carolina
  7. South Dakota
  8. Alabama
  9. New Mexico
  10. West Virginia

The top outbound states for 2023 were:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Illinois
  3. North Dakota
  4. New York
  5. Michigan
  6. California
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Kansas

Arkansas and West Virginia are new to the top 2023 inbound list, while North Dakota and Kansas are new to the top 2023 outbound list. For the first time in more than a decade, the study's findings list fewer than 10 "outbound" states.

Several states also saw nearly the same number of residents moving inbound as outbound. Nevada and Utah were among these balanced states.

An accompanying survey, which examines the motivations and influences for Americans' interstate moves, revealed the leading motivation behind these migration patterns 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 with 2022 as movers consider other important factors related to location preferences, the cost of living, and affordable housing.

"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," says 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."