Americans Are Leaving Coastal Cities and Moving to This State

Why people are flocking to this northwestern community during the pandemic

Idaho lake
The hottest state to relocate to is ... Idaho?
Ian Scargill / Unsplash

There have been hundreds of pandemic-related stories about people leaving big cities on the coasts over the past year.

But where are they going?

According to CNN, which analyzed information gathered from the National Association of Realtors and moving van companies such as U-Haul and Atlas Van Lines, they’re headed to … Idaho. That state, along with North Carolina, Maine, Alabama and New Mexico, were the places with the most inbound moves in the last year.

Some other findings:

  • 8.9 million people have relocated since the beginning of the pandemic. That figure covers March to October 2020 and was collected from change-of-address data via the U.S. Postal Service.
  • This figure is actually only a difference of 94,000 from 2019, although March saw a particularly large bump in change of addresses.
  • New York was the state with the most residents leaving, according to Atlas Van Lines. And that’s for the second year in a row, meaning COVID hasn’t always been a factor. Minnesota and New Jersey also saw surprisingly large moves out according to Atlas, although the NAR suggested that NJ actually saw a net increase of residents (50% of people who left New York apparently moved to the Garden State).
  • Kentucky reached an “inbound” surplus for the first time since 2010 and California earned an outbound status for the first time since 1995.
  • If we’re moving overseas, we’re apparently headed to Japan, which topped Atlas’s list.
  • Counties near big cities (aka suburbs) are experiencing the most migration gains, according to the NAR. Williamson, TX — outside of Austin — was the biggest gainer.
  • According to U-Haul, Tennessee was the top relocation area. “Tennessee has no income tax and is very business friendly. There are plenty of jobs. People and companies are taking note,” said Jeff Porter, U-Haul Company of Nashville president.

So how did Idaho do so well in the Atlas survey? “The Boise land rush, I call it,” Mark Jenkins, a consultant aerospace engineer who relocated to Idaho, told CNN. “I’ve never seen so much construction. Not just houses. Schools. Roads. Hospitals. Churches. It is exciting.”

Last summer’s protests may have also played a role, according to sources interviewed by CNN. “I had people calling me, primarily from California and Washington, and they would say, ‘I just have to get out,’” real estate agent Barbara Dopp said. “We are a conservative state and people are attracted to that.” (Besides the pandemic, “safety,” quality of life and cost were also considered factors).

Whatever the reasons for moving, the statistics should stay consistent this year. “Expect similar migration patterns for the first six months of 2021 and even longer with suburbs and smaller cities gaining more population,” the NAR report suggests.


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