Mover study reveals majority leaving Michigan

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Courtesy United Van Lines

A national moving company ranked Michigan the sixth most moved-from state in 2021.

The 45th annual United Van Lines national movers’ study, which tracks state-to-state customer migration and reasoning patterns, determined 58% of moves in Michigan were for another state, marking the state’s highest outbound number reported in the past five years. Michiganders’ top reasons for leaving the state in 2021 included moving for a job, being closer to family and retirement, according to the study.

Michigan has ranked high on the move-out list in 2018, 2019 and 2021 and also was a top outbound state between 2002-11. The year 2020 showed more of a balance between residents moving into and leaving Michigan, leading study experts to believe more people stayed in place in 2020.

Conversely, a separate study from commercial real estate listing service Commercial Café found the Grand Rapids-Kentwood metro gained an average of 4,473 new residents per year from exchanges with other Midwest urban areas, making it the fifth most moved-to area based on Midwest metro-to-metro moving patterns.

Michigan’s outbound migration trend follows suit with the rest of the Midwest, which collectively showed 57% of residents moving to other states.

Over the past few years, including 2021, Midwest trends indicated moves to southern states primarily for retirement purposes, apart from areas such as Chicago, where residents left due to the cost of living and to be closer to family.

The pandemic also accelerated national outbound moves to less-densely populated areas and locales that were closer to family. Last year, 31.8% of overall Americans moved to be closer to family, and 32.5% moved for a new job or job transfer. By contrast, more than 60% of Americans said they moved for job-related reasons in 2015, showing shifts in lifestyle and priorities due to COVID-19.

“For 45 years now, our annual United Van Lines study, with its data-driven insights, has allowed us to explore a deeper understanding of Americans’ overall migration patterns,” said Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications at United Van Lines. “As the pandemic continues to impact our day-to-day, we’re seeing that lifestyle changes — including the increased ability to work from home — and wanting to be closer to family are key factors in why Americans are moving today.”

New Jersey topped the 2021 list for outbound moves and has held the top spot for the past four years.

Top 10 outbound states

  1. New Jersey
  2. Illinois
  3. New York
  4. Connecticut
  5. California
  6. Michigan
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Louisiana
  9. Ohio
  10. Nebraska

Six of the top 10 inbound states, Vermont, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alabama, Oregon and Idaho, are among the 20 least densely populated states in the U.S., with less than 100 people per square mile, and Tennessee and South Carolina were within the top 25 of the least densely populated.

“This new data from United Van Lines is indicative of COVID-19’s impact on domestic migration patterns, with 2021 bringing an acceleration of moves to smaller, midsized towns and cities,” said Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor, Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re seeing this not only occur because of Americans’ desire to leave high-density areas due to risk of infection, but also due to the transformation of how we’re able to work, with more flexibility to work remote.”

The last time Michigan ranked in the top inbound move list was in 2000.

Top 10 inbound states 

  1. Vermont
  2. South Dakota
  3. South Carolina
  4. West Virginia
  5. Florida
  6. Alabama
  7. Tennessee
  8. Oregon
  9. Idaho
  10. Rhode Island

Some states also showed balanced moving patterns of inbound and outbound in the past year, including Kentucky and Wyoming.

The full 2021 migration study is online.

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