Where are Americans Moving?

States with a lower cost of living and lower taxes continued to pull Americans from more expensive states in 2021. With a major shift toward remote work for several occupations, along with continually rising housing costs, people are rapidly moving from the coasts and Midwest to the South and Southwest. With many employers having limited to no requirements for onsite work in 2021, more Americans were free to move, resulting in a jump of 20% more people moving compared to 2020.

Key Takeaways from the 2021 Migration Report

  • The Carolinas, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona and Texas are the top destinations for movers
  • The top five states for departures (IL, CA, NJ, MI and NY) are among the top 20 most densely populated states
  • Over 20% more Americans moved in 2021 compared to 2020
  • New remote work opportunities enabled an estimated 14-23 million Americans to relocate in 2021
  • The top three factors for moving in 2021 are: cost of living, proximity to family, work flexibility

Additional Takeaways

The Coasts and Midwest Lead the Way for Outbound Moves

Coastal states like New York, California and New Jersey lead the way for outbound moves in 2021 along with Illinois and Michigan in the Midwest. With cost of living being the main priority, California, New York and New Jersey were less desirable for Americans in 2021 while states with a significantly lower cost of living such as Tennessee, Arizona, and the Carolinas have naturally seen the highest influx of movers. California ranks as one of the least affordable states in the country, including owning the majority of the least affordable metro areas. Los Angeles ranks as the least affordable city for first time homebuyers in 2021.

Cost of Living was the Top Concern for Movers in 2021

It may be counterintuitive, but COVID-19 was not the top motivating factor for movers in 2021. The top concerns for moving in 2021 as recorded by a Neighbor.com survey include a desire for a lower cost of living, living closer to family, and increased work flexibility. Other important factors included better schools and safety regarding the pandemic.

Arizona, Tennessee and the Carolinas were Top Destinations

Since 2016, Arizona, Tennessee and North and South Carolina have remained in the top 5 destinations for movers. With millions of Americans now finding new remote work positions or contract work, opportunities have arisen to move to Southern states like these.

Desire for Less Expensive Housing and Smaller Cities

Remote work drove an additional 14-23 million Americans to move 6 months after the pandemic began, and that likely contributed to the 20% overall uptick of movers in 2021. Upwork found that 52.5% of Americans planning to move at that time were seeking less expensive housing and 20.6% of those planning to move were currently living in a large city.

Twenty Percent More Americans Moved in 2021 compared to 2020

2021 saw a 20% rise in movers for the year compared to 2020, with an estimated 56% of Americans moving in 2021 while just 35% moved in 2020. The pandemic accelerated moving plans for many Americans; the rapid shift to remote work for many professionals opened up a window of opportunity to move long distances to a more desirable location.

Our Methodology

For this report, we utilized 2021 data for household moves in and out of states. We focused our report on the states with the highest number of inbound or outbound moves. We statistically eliminated states that may have had a large proportion of moves but fewer overall moves than others. We also researched a range of supporting data and statistics to determine the underlying causes for 2021 moving trends.

Migration Map 2021