Follow along as we count down the 25 states where people fleeing make up the highest percentage of state-to-state moves.
25. Rhode Island
Outbound moves: 49.2%
America's smallest state by area is having trouble keeping residents within its 1,200 or so square miles.
United Van Lines says the reason most people (about 52%) move out is to take a job somewhere else. Hiring has grown in the Ocean State by a ho-hum 1.5% over the last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.
Rhode Islanders say good jobs can be hard to come by — and you can't stay here unless you can find one.
"I love R.I., but it's expensive," says a Reddit poster going by mooscaretaker. "Taxes are high and cost of living is high — make sure you have a job prior to moving."
That's good advice in general, wherever you might be moving. The best job-finding sites match people with curated posts that fit their specific skill set, so you can be sure you find a good match ahead of time.
Outbound moves: 49.4%
Mississippi — known as the birthplace of the blues — offers not only great music but also Gulf Coast beaches, delicious Southern comfort foods and the only petrified forest in the eastern U.S.
But what the Magnolia State doesn't have is an abundance of jobs. Unemployment here is among the highest in the nation: 5.4% during September 2019, when the national jobless rate was just 3.5%.
So maybe it's no surprise that the No. 1 reason Mississippians say "See y'all later" and move out is to go find work. But that's not the only reason they leave.
"It gets REALLY HOT out in the [Mississippi] Delta," writes Tom H., on Quora. "There’s tons of mosquitoes and biting flies too. Wonderful folks, terrible conditions."
Outbound moves: 49.7%
Arkansas is known for its awesome parks and wilderness areas, its University of Arkansas Razorbacks sports teams, and its wild weather, in the central U.S. Tornado Alley.
It's also the state that gave us retail giant Walmart and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
But the Arkansas job market doesn't give many people a reason to stay: 71% of those who load their stuff into moving vans say they leave in search of work.
The state last year became the first to require Medicaid recipients to hold jobs, and thousands lost their health insurance in the months that followed, The Washington Post reported. Critics of the Medicaid move say Arkansas doesn't have enough work to go around.
Outbound moves: 50.6%
Maine is a lovely state but you wouldn't want to retire here, say the people who are moving out.
The majority of them (59%) are seniors, ages 65 or older. Nearly 4 in 10 Mainers who leave are headed for retirement elsewhere — probably in a more hospitable climate.
"It gets cold during the winter. And windy and snowy," writes Elsa K., on Quora. "I’m from northern Iceland and the winters in Maine aren’t as long or dark as in Iceland but they are colder and snowier."
She adds that the warm-weather months aren't much better: "There are bugs. Lots and lots of bugs, especially if you get away from the coast. Ticks, mosquitoes, flies and things that I don’t know the names of but want your blood."
Outbound moves: 51%
St. Louis is known as the "Gateway to the West" — but Missourians are often inclined to head on through the gateway to another state. And no amount of St. Louis' own Budweiser is enough to persuade them to stay.
Jobs are the reason behind a majority (63%) of the moves out of the Show Me State.
Factories have been closing around Kansas City, causing that metro area to lose 1.9% of its manufacturing jobs over the past year, the BLS says. A Harley-Davidson motorcycle plant in K.C. shut down in May 2019, putting 800 people out of work.
Missourians commenting on Reddit say the state has other drawbacks, including the weather. "Southern humid summers and northern-like winters means rapidly moving from one extreme to the other, writes Meimnot555.
20. North Dakota
Outbound moves: 51.3%
One of America's most sparsely populated states makes this list because residents often find it too boring. The most common reason to leave North Dakota — cited by nearly 61% of those who move out — is the lifestyle, United Van Lines says.
"If you think about it, every state has something interesting about it," writes one critic, on Quora. "What's interesting about North Dakota?"
Though some may complain that North Dakota doesn't offer enough to do, if you live here you will find a job. The unemployment rate was a minuscule 2.5% during September 2019.
And the weather is never dull. In North Dakota, it has gotten as hot as 121 degrees Fahrenheit and as cold as minus 60 — in the very same year (1936).
Outbound moves: 51.6%
Virginia is for loathers, apparently, because more people are moving out than moving in.
The state's Washington, D.C., suburbs are booming, but rural areas in southern and western Virginia are rapidly losing residents, researchers at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service recently reported.
About half of those who depart leave for employment reasons, a little over a quarter hit the road to move closer to family, and nearly a quarter make an exit because they'd prefer to retire somewhere else.
Seniors are the age group most often heading out of state, at 26% of the total. That's even though the Old Dominion is one of the best states for retirees, offering an appealing mix of mountains, beaches — and low taxes.
Outbound moves: 51.7%
Utah has improved its position from United's previous study, when it was the No. 9 state for people moving out.
But the state's breathtakingly beautiful features — including its snowcapped mountains and national parks filled with amazing rock formations — still aren't enough to persuade many residents to stay.
The search for a new job is the primary driving force behind 65% of outbound moves. But rising housing prices in the Beehive State also may be part of the equation.
The median price for an existing single-family home in Salt Lake City has climbed 8% over the last year to a stiff $358,000, the National Association of Realtors said in a recent quarterly report.
If you're looking for a home in a pricey area, be sure to put in the legwork to get the best possible mortgage rate.
17. West Virginia
Outbound moves: 51.8%
Mountains and rivers draw visitors to "wild and wonderful" West Virginia, but the economy is driving out residents, especially younger ones.
Unemployment is higher than in most other states, and job growth has been sluggish.
More than half the people (56%) moving out of the state are ages 44 and younger, and 73% of those who leave are headed to jobs elsewhere.
The state's opioid crisis is taking a toll on businesses and their ability to add jobs. A small West Virginia home improvement company is suing several drugmakers because it says its employee health insurance costs are soaring.
Outbound moves: 52.6%
Bazillionaire investor Warren Buffett famously lives in Nebraska, in a house in Omaha that he bought in 1958. But many other people are deciding the Cornhusker State just isn't for them.
A hefty 70% of those who move out of Nebraska are leaving in search of work, United Van Lines found. The state has low unemployment, but there's no bumper crop of jobs: They're growing at an annual rate of just 0.8%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A 2018 report lamented that Nebraska has a "brain drain" because of a lack of high-paying jobs. “We don’t need any more minimum wage, no-experience-required jobs,” Hank Robinson, a researcher from the University of Nebraska at Omaha told the Omaha World-Herald.
Maybe it's telling that one of Nebraska's most famous fictional workers — the lead character on TV's Better Call Saul — makes cinnamon rolls at a mall food court in Omaha.
If your day job isn't bringing you the returns you want, it may be time to consider picking up a lucrative side gig.
Outbound moves: 53.1%
Maryland is a treasure trove of history and outdoor adventures — but people don't want to stay rooted here.
The high cost of living, above-average health care costs, exorbitant taxes and soaring home prices are all pushing Marylanders to look elsewhere for jobs and an affordable retirement.
Half of people who left in 2018 were 55 and older — which is not surprising when you consider that we found it's the very worst state for retirees. Anyone planning to hang up their hat in an expensive place like Maryland should talk to an adviser and get a jump on their retirement savings.
Gov. Larry Hogan told WTTG-TV he hoped Maryland’s poor showing in the MoneyWise study would convince the legislature to take action.
The governor has proposed cutting taxes in the state by $500 million within five years.
Outbound moves: 53.5%
Kentucky is famous for its gorgeous bluegrass landscapes and the thrilling Kentucky Derby, but the lack of good jobs is driving Kentuckians into exile.
The state has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates. And while many of Kentucky's neighbors — including West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri — have been raising the minimum wage, Kentucky has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for 10 years.
More than half the people who move out of Kentucky are leaving to take a better job somewhere else, United Van Lines found.
Kentucky officials say the next few years should bring more opportunities in engineering and manufacturing. Plus, jobs are opening up in secondary education, health care — and of course, the bourbon industry.
Outbound moves: 54%
Despite their state's many charms, many Wisconsinites are packing up their Green Bay Packers cheesehead hats and are moving out.
The state’s low cost of living and steady, if slow, employment growth remain attractive, but housing prices have been rising rapidly — and to record levels.
Another negative is Wisconsin's long, brutal winters. In the state’s entire recorded weather history, every winter but five hit temperatures of at least 30 below zero, according to data from the National Weather Service.
So maybe it's not surprising that more than half the people who moved away in 2018 were ages 55 or older — probably because they were looking for a warmer retirement destination.
Outbound moves: 54.3%
With its unique food and music culture, friendly folks and nearly endless outdoor activities, Louisiana is a very popular place for tourists to visit.
But many people are deciding that you wouldn't want to live here.
Job growth is near stagnant in Louisiana, and the taxes can be brutal: The average combined sales tax is second highest in the U.S. at 9.46%, but employment outside of farms increased by just 0.1% from 2018 to 2019.
Though the natural gas, methanol and technology industries are growing in the Pelican State, United Van Lines finds an overwhelming 70.8% of people who move out are heading to new jobs elsewhere.
Outbound moves: 54.4%
California’s beachy, urban, outdoorsy lifestyles attract hardworking professionals and businesses that are ready to hustle. But the state's astronomical housing prices and high living costs often kill the dream.
The top reasons people move out include jobs (41%), followed by family issues (25%) and retirement (22%).
“Unlike a few decades ago, retirees are leaving California, instead choosing other states in the Pacific West and Mountain West," Michael Stoll, public policy economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told United Van Lines.
A CNBC study ranks California last in the nation for business friendliness and 49th out of the 50 states for cost of living.
9. (tie) Michigan
Outbound moves: 55%
Despite this state’s glorious parks and nearly 3,300 miles of coastline to explore, nature lovers and others are choosing to pitch their tents someplace other than Michigan.
While the state offers job opportunities in computers, math and management, it’s got even more lower-paying work — such as in food preparation, paying under $20,000 per year, reports Michigan-based Bridge Magazine.
The congressional Joint Economic Committee ranks Michigan as the No. 7 state for “brain drain," meaning that younger, highly educated workers are fleeing the Wolverine State for better opportunities.
About half the people who moved out in 2018 told United Van Lines that the primary reason was jobs. About a quarter said retirement was the driving factor.
9. (tie) Montana
Outbound moves: 55%
Montana’s sociable culture and gorgeous landscapes are attracting A-listers and wealthy out-of-staters to shack up in the mountains — but only on vacation.
The state’s once rock-bottom cost of living has gone up, though it's still much lower than in most other states. But housing can be hard to find, and there are few work options outside of low-paying seasonal jobs in tourism and the oil industry.
Montana also is far from America's major population centers. The top reason people moved out in 2018 was to be closer to family.
An additional problem in Montana is its shortage of health care, with just 2.3 doctors per 1,000 residents.
Outbound moves: 55.5%
Iowa sunsets over golden cornfields are the stuff of poetry, and its cities and job market are growing — yet nearly three-quarters of those moving away are looking for better employment.
In Iowa, even in-demand tech jobs pay less than in other states, and the cost of living in Iowa's largest cities has risen to levels that are unaffordable for many.
Aside from the pay, young Reddit users in Iowa complain about the state’s weather extremes, poorly funded public schools, crumbling infrastructure — and they say that “Iowa is a boring state to live in.”
By far, the largest group leaving the Hawkeye State is young people ages 18 to 34. They get their degrees from the University of Iowa or Iowa State and decide they'd rather settle down somewhere else.
Outbound moves: 55.7%
Beautiful, historic Massachusetts is a great place to get an education, see a doctor, and enjoy a wicked fresh lobster roll. Sorry, make that lobstah roll.
Sadly, the insane cost of living here makes it difficult for residents to repay their student loans and make ends meet. (If that sounds like you, look into refinancing to pay your debt off faster.) People of all ages are leaving, with the 55-and-over crowd leading the pack.
More than half of those who head for the exits point to jobs as the No. 1 reason they’re moving — maybe because their company is relocating to a warmer and less expensive state, like Texas.
Massachusetts' harsh winters, eye-popping housing costs and terrible traffic congestion — Boston's is the worst, according to one study — all make good arguments not to stay put in Massachusetts.
Outbound moves: 56.5%
Ohio’s courteous Midwestern spirit is as inviting as its amusement parks, Lake Erie islands and simple yet innovative cuisine.
While plenty of people are drawn here from coastal states by the promise of a low cost of living and welcoming communities, more people are leaving. They give new meaning to the Ohio State Buckeyes' rallying cry, "Go Bucks!"
This Rust Belt state has been plagued by relatively high unemployment and slow job growth. And residents complain about the gray, punishing winters and the unequal access to good health care.
More than 6 out of 10 Ohioans who move out say they leave for job reasons. Others hit the road for better retirement destinations.
Outbound moves: 58.7%
There's no place like home in Kansas, Dorothy famously said in The Wizard of Oz. But many residents are looking for a yellow brick road (or just a simple asphalt highway) that will take them to another state.
Despite the Sunflower State's low-cost, comfy lifestyle and low unemployment — just 3.2% in August 2019 — nearly 64% of people who move out are leaving for jobs elsewhere.
The lack of income growth drives experienced, educated workers away, and the state's windy-with-a-chance-of-tornadoes weather doesn't help either.
Admittedly, Kansas isn't for everybody — but have you ever seen a sunset over those amber waves of grain? In a word: spectacular.
4. New York
Outbound moves: 61.5%
New York state offers a mix of big-city living, small-town culture, sports, arts, rural wildlife, and urban rats capable of stealing a slice of pizza.
But life here is no picnic (or pizza party) when you consider the sky-high living costs in the Big Apple, bitter cold winters up north, taxes that are among the highest in the country, and scarcity of jobs in New York's rural areas. Anyone planning to stick around needs to pinch every penny and squirrel it away in a high-interest savings account.
Residents starting over in other states are looking for better jobs, a comfy retirement and a good place to raise the family — with other relatives close by.
Here's an astonishing stat: Close to 300 people move out of New York City every day, Bloomberg found.
Outbound moves: 62%
Connecticut’s beaches and charming towns attract visitors year-round — but residents are leaving faster than the state's stunning beautiful autumn leaves fall off the trees.
As taxes rise and roads and bridges crumble, Nutmeggers are packing up and saying goodbye. (And hoping they won't be encountering too many potholes on the drive out.)
People nearing retirement (ages 55 to 64) are most likely to move out of Connecticut. More than half of those who depart have incomes of $150,000 and up, United Van Lines found.
Good riddance, says lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist Jim Shea. "You want to go, go. Good luck to you," he writes. "And don’t let the door hit you in the assets."
Outbound moves: 65.9%
The Prairie State has a host of greats within its boundaries: great farm produce, great colleges, great sports, one of America's greatest cities (Chicago) — and perhaps the greatest pizza of all.
Not so great is the state’s economy: Unemployment is on the high side compared to other states, and taxes are among the steepest in the country.
Illinois has the nation's second-highest property taxes and a punishing flat household income tax.
As Gov. J.B. Pritzker promises to implement a progressive income tax on the state’s wealthiest people, job seekers, adults over 55, and those earning more than $150,000 a year are leading an exodus from Illinois.
1. New Jersey
Outbound moves: 66.8%
The Garden State offers beaches, family-friendly suburbs and lots of football tailgating opportunities (because both the New York Giants and the New York Jets play here).
But despite all that New Jersey has going for it, people are moving out faster than from any other state, according to United Van Lines' annual study. In fact, New Jersey has been one of the top 10 move-out states in each of the last 10 years.
More than a third flee the state because of job opportunities elsewhere, and an equal share leave to find greener pastures for retirement.
Though unemployment is down and wages are going up in New Jersey, the state has a stiff cost of living, high taxes and notoriously bad roads.
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