The past year saw lots of moving trucks, cardboard wardrobe boxes, and friends pizza-bribed into helping unload U-Hauls, but the destination of the majority of those packing-tape-wielding relocators didn’t have to change the two-letter geographic code on their mail.
That’s because 85.65% of people moving stay in the same state that they’re currently living in, according to a new LendingTree study, which looks at data from January 1 to December 15 of last year.
The state with the highest percentage of in-state movers is Texas with 93.57% of movers staying within its borders. The most popular destination for those venturing out of the Lone Star State is Florida.
No. 2 on the staying-within-these-borders list is Michigan with 91.27%. Florida is also the go-to spot for Michiganders leaving the state. Rounding out the top three is Oklahoma with 91.13% and Texas as the top destination.
LendingTree credits Texas’s relatively low home prices and the fact that it has no state income tax as reasons why its residents stay put—and why others choose to relocate there.
New York topped the list of states people can’t wait to leave, with only 75.28% of movers staying in the Empire State, followed by North Dakota at 76.12% % and Hawaii at 76.56%.
But relocators who are swapping one state for another often aren’t going that far away. The research finds that 33 of the most popular states people move to border the state where they currently live.
None of this surprises Dowell Myers, a demographer and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California. For tax purposes, it’s easier to stay in the same state and in most regions of the country, state universities are popular. Alumni have wide networks of friends within the state’s borders, which serve them well when moving to a new place and job-hunting.
He points out that in-state/out-of-state could be a proxy for short-distance versus long-distance, as one of the principles of migration theory is that most people move small distances. One exception is people moving back to where their parents are.
“It’s easier to explore places nearby and you have information about them—unless you have friends in Idaho specifically,” Myers says. “It shortens supply lines to the place you’re living. You can always go back to New York or Los Angeles from where you’re moving. People like to move out, but not give up everything.”
“It’s familiarity and it’s just easier,” he adds. “State borders are arbitrary.”
And some states, like Texas, have lots of places to choose from, unlike the smaller ones in the northeaster part of the United States.
On the other side of the country, Danielle Ghiglieri moved at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic from Foothill Ranch, California, to Ladera Ranch, California, about a half-hour away, but also in Orange County. The 31-year-old PR director and her husband were expecting their son in August, so they traded up from an apartment to a townhome. They’re not done with cardboard boxes quite yet, though; in March, they’re downsizing and heading to Oakland, where her family is.
“The two-bedroom was too small,” she says, explaining their first relocation. “There wasn’t enough room. My husband and I were both working from home. We needed dedicated office space for both of us and the baby.”
LendingTree’s analysis is based on data from mortgage purchase requests on its platform. You can check out the full results and methodology here.