Economy

These Are the States Americans Fled by the Thousands Last Year

Tens of thousands of Americans moved last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many left large cities like New York to locations in the greater metro area that were less populated. People left San Francisco for Idaho and Austin. However, COVID-19 was only a part of why people moved. A new study shows the states that people fled in 2020 and those to which they moved.

Once a year, United Van Lines does a study of where people left and where they went. The new version is the 44th Annual National Migration Study. Because the company is among the largest movers in the country, its data is at least a reasonable proxy for population movement state by state. A state must have had 250 “moves” last year to qualify for the list.

The primary reason people move remains new jobs or job relocation. That figure is 40%. For moving closer to family, the figure was 27%. Data from March to October showed a sharp pick up in COVID-19 as a primary reason. The report indicates:

For customers who cited COVID-19 as an influence on their move in 2020, the top reasons associated with COVID-19 were concerns for personal and family health and wellbeing (60%); desires to be closer to family (59%); 57% moved due to changes in employment status or work arrangement (including the ability to work remotely); and 53% desired a lifestyle change or improvement of quality of life.


Idaho was the most popular place to move to over the entire year, based on the number of outbound moves compared to inbound ones. The latter made up 70% of the total. At the other end of the spectrum, 70% of moves for New Jersey were outbound.

Since COVID-19 was not a factor for the entire year, it is hard to pinpoint how much among other factors it weighs on the numbers of all of 2020. Additionally, when United Van Lines puts out its figures for 2021, the spread of COVID-19 may have slowed considerably. People may relocate because of the pandemic in the first half of 2021, but what about the second?

In terms of inbound moves, Idaho was followed by South Carolina (64%), Oregon (63%), South Dakota (62%) and Arizona (62%). Outbound moves after New Jersey were from New York (67%), Illinois (67%), Connecticut (63%) and California (59%). So, New York, the hardest-hit area by the pandemic in March and April, and the two states adjacent to it, understandably had many people who left.

These are the states that had the most people moving in and out:

Rank Moving Out Moving In
1 New Jersey Idaho
2 New York South Carolina
3 Illinois Oregon
4 Connecticut South Dakota
5 California Arizona
6 Kansas North Carolina
7 North Dakota Tennessee
8 Massachusetts Alabama
9 Ohio Florida
10 Maryland Arkansas