California ranked No. 6 among the top U.S. states most moved from in 2023, according to the National Movers Study by United Van Lines. Those surveyed said their main motivation for moving out of California was the high cost of living.
The data showed more residents moved out of the Golden State than into it in 2023, with 58% of California moves being outbound in 2023.
California saw its first-ever population decline in 2020 when the state imposed rigid lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. From January 2020 to July 2022, the state lost well over half a million people, with the number of residents leaving surpassing those moving in by almost 700,000.
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"We are continuing to see the trend that Americans are moving to more affordable, lower-density areas across the country, with many heading to Southern states," United Van Lines Vice President of Corporate Communications Eily Cummings said. "Movers are also becoming more strategic with their planning, as relocation continues to be driven by factors such as the price of housing, regional climates, urban planning and job growth."
New Jersey topped the list of most outbound states, followed by Illinois, North Dakota, New York, Michigan, California, Massachusetts, and Kansas.
The study, which tracks the company's data for customers' state-to-state migration patterns, found more people momved to Vermont than any other state with 65% of moves being inbound.
On the other end of the spectrum, the study found more residents moved out of New Jersey than any other state, as 65% of New Jersey moves were outbound. The top motivation for moves out of the state was driven primarily from those looking to retire (27%).
Additionally, the survey shows the top motivations for moves – such as wanting to be closer to family (27%) and retirement (14%) – have declined compared to 2022 as movers consider other important factors related to location preferences, the cost of living and affordable housing.
File photo of movers packing and loading up a household for a move Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Tomball. (Photo by Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)
"The COVID-19 pandemic influenced decisions to move and accelerated existing moving patterns in 2020, mostly driven by the opportunity to work remotely, the desire to be closer to family and better affordability," Michael A. Stoll, Economist and Professor in The Department of Public Policy at The University of California, Los Angeles said. "Some Americans may be faced with economic uncertainty, coupled with an increased cost of living and lack of affordable housing. This can result in adjustments to moving timelines or people making interstate moves, rather than across states."
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