Analysis: Who's Moving to Your State?

Each state’s new crop of residents varies significantly across demographic groups. See how those moving to your state compare to others.
by | September 25, 2013

Americans moving to New Jersey earned higher incomes than those relocating to any other state last year. Those making their homes in Massachusetts and Vermont tended to be more college educated. In sunny Florida and Arizona, new residents were most likely older.

In all, states welcomed more than 8.9 million new residents in 2012. Census data released last week paints a portrait of each state’s new crop of residents, showing significant variation across different demographic groups.

For the most part, newcomers mirror a state’s existing population and that of the surrounding region.

But this isn’t always the case. To examine differences in each state’s newest residents, Governing compiled updated data published by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Mobility data was pulled for two groups: those moving from a different state (about 7.1 million individuals nationwide) and from abroad (approximately 1.8 million).

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It should be noted that this analysis considers only individuals relocating to a state in 2012. It does not account for those moving within a state, births, deaths or net migration totals.

Read on to learn more about different demographic trends, or refer to the database below for state-specific population estimates.

Total Movers

Only a small handful of Americans – about 2.3 percent of the total population – packed their bags and headed to a new state last year. A far greater number moved much shorter distances. Nine percent of Americans relocated within the same county, while another 3.2 percent moved to different county within a state.

The fastest-growing states with a larger supply of jobs are, as expected, adding the most out-of-state residents. Here’s a list of the top 10 states registering the most new residents, both from other states and abroad, as a share of the current total population:

  1. North Dakota: 6.0%
  2. Wyoming: 5.8%
  3. Hawaii: 5.5%
  4. Alaska: 5.3%
  5. Nevada: 5.1%
  6. Colorado: 4.7%
  7. New Hampshire:  4.3%
  8. Vermont: 4.3%
  9. Delaware: 4.2%
  10. Arizona: 4.2%

By comparison, Michigan greeted only 180,000 residents from outside its borders – about 1.8 percent of its population.

Of course, this list would look a lot different if we considered only raw totals. By that measure, California, Florida, Texas and the other most populous states welcomed the most residents.

Nationally, rates of interstate moves haven’t budged much in recent years. Before the recession began in 2007, just slightly more (2.5 percent of Americans) moved to a new state.

Educational Attainment

Massachusetts is home to a plethora of colleges and universities, and its new residents are highly educated, accordingly. More than 56 percent of those 25 and older moving to the Commonwealth last year held at least a bachelor’s degree, just ahead of Vermont for the nation’s highest rate:

  1. Massachusetts: 56.3%
  2. Vermont: 56.2%
  3. New York: 52.7%
  4. Connecticut: 52.0%
  5. Maryland: 51.6%
  6. Virginia: 51.4%
  7. California: 51.2%
  8. Illinois: 50.6%
  9. New Hampshire: 50.2%
  10. Maine: 49.7%

(Above figures refer to percentages of the population of domestic and foreign movers age 25 and up.)

For those with graduate and professional degrees, Vermont recorded the highest rate (27.8 percent of movers), followed by Maryland and Connecticut (26.1 percent each).

Overall, those traversing across state lines tend to be more educated than the nation as a whole. About 40 percent of movers between states held bachelors, graduate or professional degrees last year. Among those relocating from abroad, this figure was even higher -- 45 percent.

Age groups

The median age of a person moving to Vermont last year was a mere 23.4 years – younger than any other state. That’s a little unusual since the state’s total population, along with other parts of the northeastern U.S., is older than other regions.

Utah – the state with country’s youngest residents – ranked second with a median age of 23.9 years.

Meanwhile, older Americans continued to flock to retirement hot spots.

Florida added 104,000 residents age 65 and older, accounting for about 15 percent of the state’s estimated new residents moving in. That’s the highest share of any state, followed by Arizona, which welcomed nearly 40,000 such residents, or about 14.5 percent of all movers.

Individual Incomes

Here are the states whose newcomers reported the highest median individual incomes over the past 12 months:

  1. New Jersey: $28,716
  2. Maryland: $28,644
  3. New Hampshire: $28,247
  4. Virginia: $26,589
  5. Hawaii: $26,141
  6. Connecticut: $24,597
  7. Alaska: $23,740
  8. Delaware: $23,171
  9. California: $22,782
  10. New York: $22,762

(Keep in mind that these estimates are for all individuals, including those not working. The Census Bureau doesn’t report combined median incomes for domestic and overseas movers, so the above estimates only refer to those relocating domestically. Figures shown are in 2012 dollars not adjusted for cost of living.)

Top states on this list likely benefit in large part from those moving from neighboring states. New Jersey attracts residents from across the river living in New York City, while families also frequently change addresses in the wealthy Washington, D.C., suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.

Those settling in Vermont ($12,679), West Virginia ($13,143) and Utah ($13,817) reported the lowest median incomes. Data also indicates these states added notable tallies of younger and college-age residents, one possible reason to explain their lower earnings.

Foreign-Born Residents

Nearly 11 percent of those living in new states last year were foreign-born, although this doesn’t necessarily mean they all recently traveled from abroad.

Not surprisingly, coastal states register significantly higher rates of these individuals. More than a third of those moving to California, New York and New Jersey were foreign born last year.

New York was the top destination for the foreign born, accounting for 37 percent of all its incoming residents. In Montana, by comparison, less than 5 percent of those relocating were not born in the U.S.

State Data

Select your state to view demographic estimates for those relocating to it in 2012. Figures refer to combined totals for those moving domestically and abroad unless otherwise indicated.

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