Moving Trends of 2023 into 2024
Top Inbound Trends and Outbound Shifts in 2023 Migration
Trends from 2023 that will most likely continue into 2024
In a comprehensive analysis of American migration patterns, the 47th Annual National Movers Study by United Van Lines unveils key trends and shifts in the movement landscape during 2023. This article delves into the intricacies of the study, exploring inbound trends, outbound shifts, and the factors driving these migration patterns.
United Van Lines' 47th Annual National Movers Study
On January 2, 2024, United Van Lines released their 47th Annual National Movers Study, providing insights into where and why Americans moved in 2023. The study highlights states with the highest shares of inbound and outbound moves, offering a nuanced view of the migration landscape.
The 2023 study reveals a notable eastbound and southbound migration trend, with Americans flocking to less expensive metros. The U-Haul Growth Index for 2023 underscores this by showcasing the top 10 states for growth based on substantial one-way U-Haul equipment rentals.
U-Haul Growth Index Highlights
- Texas: Maintains the top spot for the third consecutive year.
- Florida: Close behind Texas, securing its position for the third year.
- North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee: Follow in the list of leading growth states.
The U-Haul Growth Index also identifies significant year-over-year climbers and sliders, reflecting the dynamic nature of migration trends.
The outbound list, dominated by Western states, indicates a movement towards less expensive metros with comparable amenities. California, for the fourth consecutive year, experiences the largest net loss of one-way inbound movers, according to U-Haul rental data.
Top Outbound States in 2023
- New Jersey
- New York
Despite transactions in 2023 being below record-breaking levels post-pandemic, geographical trends persist as U-Haul customers continue to move between states.
Inbound States of 2023
Vermont emerges as the top inbound state for the third straight year, with 65.5% of total moves being inbound. Noteworthy reasons for moving to Vermont include a desire to be closer to family and a lifestyle change. The Southeast region witnesses increased popularity among movers, with South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama leading the trend.
Rising Stars in 2023
- Arkansas: Climbs from #18 to #4.
- West Virginia: Jumps from #13 to #10.
Outbound States of 2023
Conversely, New Jersey maintains its position as the top outbound state for the sixth consecutive year, driven by retirement as the primary motivator. The Midwest and West regions, including Illinois, Michigan, and California, feature prominently in the top 10 states with high shares of outbound moves.
Newcomers in Outbound Trends
- North Dakota: Surges from #18 to #3.
- Kansas: Moves from #14 to #8.
Overall Trends and Insights
The study points towards fewer than 10 outbound states for the first time in over a decade, emphasizing a shift in migration patterns. Affordability constraints result in fewer Americans relocating in 2023, with states showing similar shares of residents moving inbound and outbound.
Motivators for Interstate Moves
Career change emerges as the leading motivator in 2023, constituting 29% of interstate moves. While the desire to be closer to family and retirement sees a decline, movers prioritize affordable housing and lower living costs.
Housing Market Considerations
The current market highlights housing affordability as the paramount consideration for both buyers and sellers planning interstate moves. Among the 50 largest U.S. metros, Charlotte, NC, and Indianapolis, IN, stand out as top markets for net inbound moves by United Van Lines.
Top States People Are Moving To
Every year since 1977, United Van Lines has been tracking state-by-state migration patterns state-by-state. Our 2023 Annual National Movers Study is based on household moves within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. States are ranked based on 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 and “balanced” if the difference between inbound and outbound is negligible.
Among the more notable trends captured in the latest study was a significant drop in the percentage of those moving for retirement reasons — from 20.39% in 2022 to just 13.5% in 2023 — perhaps due to less attractive mortgage rates, a downturn in real estate activity overall and that a significant number of Baby Boomers have already retired. Also, the percentage of those relocating to lower their cost of living went down significantly – from 8.15% in 2022 to just 2.7% last year. This is very probably due to the stabilizing inflation rate we’ve seen in the past year.
So where did people move to most in 2023? According to our data, these are the top ten states.*
Top States People Moved To*:
- Washington, D.C.
- South Carolina
- Rhode Island
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
[*The 2023 study is based on household moves handled by the UniGroup network (parent company of United Van Lines) 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.]
Let’s take a closer look.
Vermont topped our list with more than 65% of moves inbound. Why is Vermont so popular? A full 26.5% of those responding to our survey said being near family and friends was the biggest factor for relocating, followed by 20.6% moving there for a new job or job transfer as well as 20.6% seeking a change in lifestyle, the highest percentage among the top five.
Vermont appeals to people because of its relatively low cost of living. Plus, these are amazing outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and natural beauty to enjoy. The state’s employers also seem to care about social and environmental issues, which makes it a good place to work. If you want to start a family, Vermont has laws requiring most businesses to offer bonding leave for both parents. It’s also very safe there with a crime rate almost 50% lower than the national average.Washington, D.C.
- Washington, D.C.
With an inbound move rate of 62.25%, Washington D.C.’s popularity is definitely on the rise, going from seventh place in 2022 to the runner-up spot last year. With approximately 40% of the workforce in Washington, D.C. employed by the government, it’s not surprising that 32.8% came here because of a new job or a transfer. Outside of government jobs, the top employment sectors include technology, construction, international business, and hospitality (primarily tourism). Moves in and out of D.C. typically cycle with presidential elections. We expect this trend to continue into 2024.
The epicenter of all things political, Washington, D.C. is the place to be if you like mingling with a diverse crowd and being surrounded by a heady mix of nightlife, politics and culture. With a full 51.85% of movers under the age of 45, it’s a place that attracts up and comers and notably just one out of 10 respondents come here to retire. With nearly 67% of respondents reporting an annual household income in excess of $150K, it’s the most affluent group in our survey overall.
- South Carolina
South Carolina saw a 60.15% inbound rate, with 26.1% of respondents moving there to retire. It’s easy to see why: The beaches and golf courses are world famous and popular move destinations like Myrtle Beach manage to combine both, in an affordable alternative to other parts of the country, particularly the Northeast.
A full 22.4% of people said they moved to be closer to family and friends, and with a comparatively strong economy 29.17% moved there for a new job or transfer. Not surprisingly nearly 19% of those surveyed pointed to lifestyle as another key motivator. The state has old moss-covered trees, rolling mountains and amazing barrier islands perfect for vacations. And while the cost of living remains comfortably below the national average, just 6.2% of those surveyed said it was a draw for them.
With a 60.16% inbound move rate, you could say The Diamond State had been an overlooked gem for years, but that’s definitely not the case today. Nearly 20% of respondents moved there in 2023 to be closer to family and loved ones and 16.5% headed there to retire. That’s no surprise, since a new study by U.S. News and World Report revealed Arkansas is now the third most affordable state to live.
With six Fortune 500 companies located in Arkansas, including the world’s number-one corporation by revenue, Walmart, the Arkansas economy continues to be relatively strong and stable and nearly 32% of respondents moved there due to a new job or transfer. The ability to work remotely was also a significant factor in 2023, with 8.8% of those responding citing a change in their work situation as a motivator.
Arkansas also boasts over 52 state parks featuring an abundance of rivers, lakes, mountains and trails perfect for outdoorsy types. And let’s not overlook the fact it has a moderate climate and doesn’t typically experience very harsh winters or extensive periods of rain.
- Rhode Island
Rounding out our top five, this smallest state really packs a punch with an inbound rate of 60.12%. Nearly 30% moved to “Little Rhody” be closer to their family and friends. The biggest reason though was work, with 43.2% moving for a job.
With so much history, culture and architecture — plus over 400 miles of pristine coastline — it’s not surprising 13.1% said they moved to Rhode Island for a more attractive lifestyle. Housing costs are a bit lower than other New England states too. That said, just 5.4% of respondents moved there to retire in 2023. Retirement income and Social Security are taxed if you earn over a certain amount; however, the state does offer attractive deductions on taxes. One downside, Rhode Island also has an estate tax, which not many other states have.
United Van Lines can help make any of these — or other — U.S. states your new home. As a full-service moving company, we have agents located across the country. For long-distance, cross-country moves, our movers can also help with not just transporting your items, but also packing and storage. Our agents can also help you move locally, backed by the quality and resources of America’s #1 Mover®.
Top Cities People Are Moving To
According to United Van Lines Annual 2023 National Movers Study, the 47th of its kind, people are on the move in interesting ways.
The reasons for relocating are more nuanced than ever before. Lured by the slower pace of life, movers are drawn to smaller and mid-size cities with proximity to natural beauty and cultural riches. No longer just “nice to have,” such amenities have become integral to our way of life.
The impacts of climate change also appear to factor in. While a handful of coastal cities still rank high, fewer of them are in Florida. Movers also appear cognizant about areas prone to wildfires, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Then there’s the matter of cost of living. With affordable housing top of mind, the shift away from historically expensive, major metro areas is an ongoing pattern.
Let’s dive in. Here are the top 10 inbound cities people moved to in 2023:
- Myrtle Beach, SC (84%)
- Wilmington, NC (82.77%)
- Flagstaff, AZ (82.47%)
- Sioux Falls, SD (80.49%)
- Santa Fe, NM (80.42%)
- Eugene-Springfield, OR (75.7%)
- Dothan, AL (75.38%)
- Brownsville-Harlingen, TX (71.85%)
- Bellingham, WA (70.54%)
- Richland-Kennewick-Pasco, WA (70.11%)
Now, let’s take a quick a step back to 2022, when the top five cities people moved to, in order, were Wilmington, North Carolina (81%); Bellingham, Washington (73.2%); Santa Fe, New Mexico (73%); Myrtle Beach, SC (72%) and Punta Gorda, Florida (71.6%). Interestingly, Wilmington, North Carolina ranked in the top MSA inbound markets for four consecutive years. Meanwhile, Punta Gorda, Florida — which was in our top five last year — dropped to 21st on our list of inbound cities to move to in 2023.
While Myrtle Beach and Wilmington remain high on the list, there has been a notable shift inland. This year, Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, located one hour from the ocean; the riverside tri-cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, Washington; and landlocked Dothan, Alabama all cracked the top 10. None are particularly populous or spendy and all are a gateway to nature’s wonders.
Considering a move? From sunny South Carolina to the towering Ponderosa pines of Arizona, one of these vibrant cities may be calling your name. Perhaps 2024 is your year, knowing adventure, relaxation and picture-perfect vistas await.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Fun, Sun and Southern Hospitality
Average Commute: 18.7 minutes
Distance from the Coast: 0 miles
Number of Museums: 20-plus
Offering a magnetic mix of fun and sun, it’s no wonder Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, topped 2023’s list for inbound cities (84%), up more than 10 points from 2022.
A little slice of paradise where life moves at a leisurely pace and worries melt away with the setting sun, this coastal South Carolina charmer is so much more than the sand, surf and saltwater taffy that defines it.
Warm and subtropical, Myrtle Beach resides in the northeastern part of the state, at the center of a continuous, 60-mile stretch of beach called “The Grand Strand.” Short, mostly mild winters see average daytime highs from 57 F to 61 F. Warm, leisurely summers see temps between 83 F and 91 F. On average it sees 215 days of glorious sunshine.
Not to be overlooked is Myrtle Beach’s warm Southern hospitality, thousands of miles of walking paths, plethora of shopping malls and fresh-plucked seafood. Then there’s the matter of affordability. The cost of living in Myrtle Beach is 2% lower than the state average and 8% lower than the national average. Myrtle Beach housing is 32% cheaper than the U.S average, while utilities are about 17% pricier. As for basic necessities, like groceries and clothing, they are about 2% less than in the rest of the country.
A hop, skip and a jump from Congaree and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, Myrtle Beach has plenty of state parks, nature reserves and wildlife refuges close to home. Meanwhile, the Grand Strand’s flashy amusement parks, mini golf courses and boardwalks offer kitschy entertainment galore. If kitsch isn’t your thing, take in a show at the Alabama Theatre or stroll through Spanish moss-draped Brookgreen Gardens. Or just find a seat at one of the beach bars along Ocean Boulevard, gazing at the technicolor sunsets while a Jimmy Buffett cover band cranks out another round of “Margaritaville.”
Among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in America, palm tree-stippled Myrtle Beach is also known for its well-performing public and private schools.
Wilmington, North Carolina: Charming Historic District and Beautiful Beaches
Average Commute: 18.5 minutes
Distance from the Coast: 0 miles
Number of Museums: 8-plus
A port city on southeastern North Carolina’s Cape Fear coast, Wilmington’s genteel mansions and cobblestoned streets whisper of Southern charm. Boasting a large historic district, vibrant riverfront and picturesque walks along the storied Cape Fear River, it sets the tone with varied, architectural homes and mossy, old-growth oaks that line the city’s more than 230-block district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beyond the city limits, adventures await. Paddle the blackwater creeks of the Green Swamp Preserve or reel in red drum off the piers at Kure Beach and Carolina Beach. For hiking, head to Airlie Gardens or the Brunswick Nature Park to traipse through longleaf pine forests and cypress swamps.
If lazing on white sand beaches is more your speed, you’ve got over 20 miles of them within 30 minutes of downtown. Wrightsville Beach draws surfers and sunbathers, while undeveloped Masonboro Island is only accessible by boat or kayak.
Featuring a humid, subtropical climate marked by mild winters and hot, humid summers that bring windy conditions and heavy rains, Wilmington is a gateway to beaches that include Wrightsville, known for its strong surf, and Carolina, featuring a long boardwalk.
Beyond its historic district trimmed with restaurants, galleries and shops. The Cape Fear River is where the Battleship North Carolina is moored, and artifacts aboard offer an exploration of WWII naval combat history.
Relatively affordable in today’s terms, Wilmington’s cost of living is 2% higher than the state average and 4% lower than the national average. Here, housing is 23% cheaper than the U.S average, while utilities are about 4% pricier. When it comes to the basics, such as food and clothing, they cost about 3% more than in the rest of the country.
Flagstaff, Arizona: Outdoor Adventure Meets College Town Vibes
Average Commute: 19.1 minutes
Distance from the Coast: 279 miles from the Pacific Ocean
Number of Museums: 8-plus
Nestled in northern Arizona amid mountains, desert and fragrant ponderosa pine forests, relaxed, pedestrian-friendly — not to mention “granola” — Flagstaff attracts cheery, outdoors-loving, athletic crowd. Northern Arizona University (NAU) infuses a dose of college-town flair. On campus, you’ll find gardens, observatories and the highly rated Museum Club bar. Off-campus, students flock to downtown’s cafes, bookstores and live music venues.
A rich railroad history is evident throughout town. The reason? In the 1880s, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid tracks through Flagstaff and the rest of northern Arizona and New Mexico. Upon purchasing the line in 1885, the Santa Fe Railroad established Flagstaff as a continuous rail connection between St. Louis and the Pacific Ocean.
Set at the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, Flagstaff is variously reported to have a warm dry-summer Mediterranean climate, hemiboreal climate and cold semi-arid climate, the latter of which it’s most commonly designated. Northern Arizona experiences a summer monsoon season from July to September, with July and August typically the wettest months. There is also a winter monsoon season, albeit less pronounced. June — and summer as a whole — is driest. Flagstaff’s hottest temperature on record was 97 F in July 1973, meaning the temps are much more bearable than Arizona’s lowland areas.
Admittedly, it’s not just the heat that can creep up on you. Flagstaff is not the most affordable place on our list — its overall cost of living clocks in at 114% of the national average.
A gateway to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon and mighty Colorado River that carved it, Flagstaff was designated an International Dark Sky City. As such, stargazing is topnotch. In fact, budding astronomers can drive up to Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill, just west of downtown, to capitalize on the view. A bit further afield is the incredible Antelope Canyon, its undulating sandstone formations on land belonging to a Navajo family. Plan ahead and take the awe-inspiring tour — guides are a must.
Of course, the natural wonders don’t stop there. Hiking is popular during the warmer months, including on trails in Coconino National Forest and ones crisscrossing Mt. Elden northeast of downtown. Friendly to cyclists, Flagstaff also sports more than 50 miles of peddle-ready trails. When winter arrives, locals zip down the slopes of Agassiz and Humphreys peaks on 40 runs from 9,200- to-11,500 feet.
With all the formations around, ways to appreciate history and geology also run deep. There are three fascinating national monuments within 40 miles of the city, standouts being the lava field at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and the 800-year-old pueblo at Wupatki National Monument. Of course, you can also explore indoors at the Museum of Northern Arizona, which lends insight into the Colorado Plateau.
Want to venture further afield? Check out our National Parks of the Southwest guide.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Small City Life with Big Benefits
Don’t let its diminutive size fool you — Sioux Falls, South Dakota, packs a big punch.
Forget sprinting to catch the bus or battling bumper-to-bumper traffic — life here moves at a gentler pace, allowing you to soak in the simple pleasures.
With over 70 parks spanning 900 acres, there are plenty of places to unwind in nature. Meander the bike trails, cast a line in the Big Sioux River, or pack a picnic in the aptly named Falls Park, home to the city’s namesake cascades.
Those culturally inclined will also find their bliss in Sioux Falls. Despite its small-town vibe, the city boasts a symphony orchestra, several theater companies, and an array of museums dedicated to art, natural history and pioneer life. Add that to its smattering of craft breweries, farm-to-table eateries and funky shops lining the historic downtown.
While life here may move slower, the economy certainly does not. In fact, Sioux Falls has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Major employers like Sanford Health, Avera and Citibank are regularly hiring. The cost of living is also well below the national average, so your paycheck will stretch further.
At 3% lower than the state average and 9% lower than the national average, Sioux Falls’ housing is 8% cheaper than the U.S average, its utilities are 16% less pricey, and food and clothing are about 9% less.
From its gently rolling prairies to its shallow, fertile valleys. South Dakota is an underrated, undeniably attractive state. Head southwest and your mind will be blown — Badlands National Park is a geologic marvel; the majestic Black Hills offer 10,000 square miles of grasslands, forests and memorials; and colossal Mount Rushmore — the carved faces of Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — is a national treasure.
Of course, you don’t have to travel far to soak up the region’s beauty. Terrace Park is home to the Shoto-Teien Japanese Gardens with its pagodas, reed lanterns and koi. Nationally acclaimed garden designer and architect Koichi Kawana helped restore the gardens in the 1980s, punctuating them with a pond, waterfalls and more than 200 trees.
Not to be outdone, over 800 living butterflies winter in Sioux Falls at the Butterfly House and Marine Cove tropical conservatory in Sertoma Park.
Ultimately, Sioux Falls has a recipe for success: Take a picturesque natural setting, blend in cultural amenities galore, and fold in career opportunities and an affordable standard of living and you have a city that’s leading the charge for small-town living with big-city benefits.
Santa Fe, New Mexico: Arts, Culture and Natural Wonders
Average Commute: 23.1 minutes
Distance from the Coast: 516 miles from the Pacific Ocean
Number of Museums: 12-plus
Historic adobe neighborhoods. A timeless, earthy vibe. Over 200 galleries showcasing everything from classic Western art to avant-garde installations. And who could forget the Georgia O’Keefe Museum? Meanwhile, Meow Wolf, an off-kilter, immersive, down-the-rabbit-hole art installation is not to be missed (and is worthy of repeat visits). Lying more than 7,000 feet above sea level and founded as a Spanish colony in 1610, Santa Fe is set at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo range. An ideal base for hiking, mountain biking and skiing, Santa Fe is also a jumping off point to the region’s many other natural wonders. (See our National Parks of the Southwest guide for more on that.)
With a population of 89,008 in July 2022, it is the fourth-largest city in New Mexico, emphasizing the trend we’ve seen of people moving from larger to smaller — but culture-rich — cities.
Santa Fe’s elevation means you’ll escape the worst of the summer swelter, but that doesn’t mean it’s frosty. Marked by cool, dry winters, hot summers and relatively low precipitation, Santa Fe usually receives six- to-eight snowfalls a year between November and April. The heaviest rainfall happens in July and August, when the North American Monsoon arrives.
Although it’s not an inexpensive city, Santa Fe’s cost of living is lower than some states. However, the housing cost here is the highest among other cities in New Mexico. Offsetting those costs is what many consider a better quality of life, with access to abundant natural resources, a fiery culinary scene and art galore.
A hotbed of creativity, Sante Fe has been designated a UNESCO Creative City, thanks to its proliferation of visual artists (and the galleries that showcase them); literati, like D.H. Lawrence; plentiful music, dance and opera performances; and impressive collection of museums, showcasing everything from Native American works to modern and contemporary Southwestern artwork, one dedicated to solely to Georgia O’Keeffe.
Infused with Spanish and Pueblo influences and loaded with spectacular outdoor spaces with stories to tell — including Bandelier National Monument and two national parks, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands — you’ll find no shortage of ways to pass the time. Not to be overlooked, Sante Fe is an architecture lover’s paradise, one with distinctive, low-slung, earth-colored buildings, much of it crafted from adobe bricks.
You may find yourself wondering, what’s up with this attractive — albeit somewhat unlikely mix of cities seeing an influx of residents? Our data shows people making moves for more emotive reasons. Connecting deeply with a destination, longing to be there and knowing it has the power to impact your life in a positive way appears to be a motivator, one that hasn’t wavered since the pandemic.
Are you ready to find the city where your heart and soul resides? We can help — and it all starts with a moving quote. Want to explore your options more? Our state and city guides help give you a sense of space and place.