Where Did Americans Move in 2020?

New data show which states gained and lost the most residents in 2020.

2020 saw significant changes to the way we leave in work thanks to COVID-19. With fears of getting sick and mandated lockdowns, suddenly large swaths of the population were working from home that had not previously done so, and that included federal employees.

The pandemic also undoubtedly had an impact on state-to-state migrations. While its exact implications may not be known, we can get a glimpse of where Americans sought to live based on data from two large moving companies.

United Van Lines and Allied Van Lines have both released data on where their clients moved in 2020.

Top Outbound States

Which states had the most people moving out of them?

Allied Van Lines said in its Magnet States Report that these were the states with the highest number of outbound moves:

  1. Illinois
  2. Michigan
  3. New Jersey
  4. California
  5. New York

United Van Lines said that these were the states it saw with the highest percentages of outbound moves:

  1. New Jersey
  2. New York
  3. Illinois  
  4. Connecticut
  5. California

Top Inbound States

And the highest inbound states? Allied Van Lines said these were its top states:

  1. Arizona
  2. South Carolina
  3. Tennessee
  4. North Carolina
  5. Texas

For United Van Lines, these were the top inbound states:

  1. Idaho
  2. South Carolina
  3. Oregon
  4. South Dakota
  5. Arizona

COVID-19 likely was a factor in some of these moves. Whether it was people enjoying new found freedom and mobility from telework or escaping states with much more strict lockdowns in favor of ones that were open, people didn’t let the pandemic stop them from moving during the year.

Taxes and Retirement

Retirement is often a reason people will relocate as well. Florida has always been a top destination spot for retirees, for example, with its warm climate and no state income tax to worry about for pensions or Social Security.

After retirement, one is no longer tied to a job which can provide greater mobility as well.

And with respect to taxes, the Tax Foundation notes that some of the states with the highest 2020 outbound moves are among those that it ranks worst in terms of their competitiveness in its State Business Tax Climate Index.

In analyzing the potential tax implications seen in the moving data, Tax Foundation Policy Analyst Janelle Cammenga wrote:

Four of the 10 worst-performing states on this year’s [State Business Tax Climate] Index are also among the 10 states with the most outbound migration in this year’s National Movers Study (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and California). Seven of the top 10 ranked inbound migration states also rank in the top half of states on the Index, which measures tax structure. And the three which do not (Alabama, Arkansas, and South Carolina), while having significant room for improvement in the structure of their tax codes, generally feature low tax burdens. Conversely, all but one of the top outbound states rank in the bottom third of the Index, the only exception being North Dakota (17th), where outbound migration has been driven by a decline in energy markets.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.