Americans are leaving their homes behind to search for a better life — these are the top 5 states being abandoned

Americans are leaving their homes behind to search for a better life — these are the top 5 states being abandoned
Americans are leaving their homes behind to search for a better life — these are the top 5 states being abandoned

If there’s one thing that will motivate Americans to move, it’s money. Where can you get more of it, where can you save it, where is it expensive to live and where is it cheap?

It’s an American tradition that stretches back to the 19th century, when pioneers headed west in search of gold, silver and a brighter future.

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But over the pandemic, as remote work took off, many people packed up and fled densely-populated expensive states for cheaper living arrangements that helped to stretch their dollars.

Three years after the onset of the pandemic, cheaper, lower-density areas remain attractive to Americans looking to make a change, as a recent study shows. Every year, United Van Lines, a moving and relocation company, tracks its moves and shares the results of the top states Americans are fleeing — and where they’re headed. Here are the top five states people left behind in 2022.

1. New Jersey

For the fifth consecutive year, New Jersey was the No. 1 state Americans chose to leave in 2022. The top reasons folks cited for leaving New Jersey were for retirement (32%) and being closer to family (also 32%). Getting a new job was also a key motivator for 20%.

However, a poll by Monmouth University last year found that a record 59% of New Jerseyans would like to move "at some point," which is an increase from previous polls. This could be due to the Garden State’s high property tax burden, which is only rising higher, with the high cost of living pushing many to seek shelter elsewhere.

2. Illinois

For the Illinoisans leaving the state, the choice came down to moving for a new job (31%), family (30%), retirement (24%) and a new lifestyle (22%).

This marked almost a decade of straight losses for Illinois, with residents looking for more affordable living. Interestingly, nearly 52% of those who left the state in 2022 earned more than $150,000 a year.

Considering Illinois “offers” one of the highest combined local and state tax rates — and the second-highest property taxes — in the country, it’s unsurprising high earners are eager to set up shop elsewhere.

Read more: Here's how much money the average middle-class American household makes — how do you stack up?

3. New York

New York is a hell of a state. And it’s a hell of a cost to live there as well. Once again, retirement topped the list as the main reason New Yorkers left (31%), with lifestyle and family tied for second (both 28%).

Similarly to Illinois, 48.75% of residents earning more than $150,000 chose to leave the state, with 36.87% aged 65 or older. With rents climbing higher and higher and taxes through the roof, it’s easy to see why many choose to leave the Empire State.

Yet there’s some evidence that those who left during the pandemic are now coming back as real estate prices drop. Still, those wanting to move to the Big Apple will need to have a housing budget above $1.3 million if they hope to buy their homes.

4. Michigan

On the other side of Lake Erie, Michigan lost slightly more residents than it welcomed in 2022, with 57% choosing to make their homes elsewhere.

The two top reasons for that were family (33%) and a new job (30%). In fact, cost doesn’t seem to be a huge factor, with just 2% of movers choosing to leave for that reason. The 65+ cohort was the lion's share of the movers, accounting for 34%.

And although the cost of living is generally low in the state, considering the harsh winters there, it’s no surprise some might want to leave the Great Lakes State for sunnier pastures.

5. Wyoming

Wrapping up the top five is Wyoming. As Americans ditch the cold weather for warmer, less-occupied states, the clear reason for many Wyomingites to leave came from finding a new job (40%).

What’s shocking, however, is that it seems many residents who chose to leave hadn’t been there very long.

Wyoming received a massive influx of movers during the pandemic, with many choosing to embrace its wide open spaces. However, it looks like the move wasn’t permanent for many. The largest outflux came from those making anywhere under $100,000. And demographically, the majority were 55 and older. So perhaps Americans wanting to retire and needing the cash on hand chose to look elsewhere for it.

Bottom line for Wyoming is if the state can’t offer low costs and jobs, Americans aren’t going to stay long.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.