Americans Can't Escape These States Fast Enough

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:38:14 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Gary Dee/Wikipedia

In today's positive job economy, it might be hard to believe there are many states where people are struggling to find work. Still, it's the truth. Of America's 50 states, many are experiencing a massive exodus as citizens head to other states with better opportunities and sometimes lower populations.

New York City, Los Angeles and other huge cities may have once been places where opportunities never ran out, but the latest statistics tell a different story entirely. If you’re thinking of relocating, be sure to avoid these problem states that are losing massive numbers of residents.

30. Oklahoma

Unfortunately for Oklahomans, the state is pretty much the perfect place for tornadoes to strike. You may not think this is a reason to flee — after all, plenty of states face their own unique tendencies for natural disasters — but it's possible it plays a part in the state's 47.4% departure rate.

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Photo Courtesy: Urbanative/Wikipedia

To be clear, the departure rate represents the percentage of people who moved across state lines in 2018. The inverse is promising for the state — an arrival rate of 52.6% for new people moving to Oklahoma in the past year — but that 47.4% still remains troubling for the state.

29. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the most historically important states in America, dating back to the very beginning of the United States as one of the 13 original colonies and states. The Keystone State remains as essential to the nation today as it was three centuries ago, but some residents aren't pleased.

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Last year, 47.9% of people moved out of Pennsylvania, headed onward and outward to better things. The state's historical significance will always ensure it’s a tourism hot spot, but some residents seem to have had enough of daily life there and want something new.

28. Minnesota

Minnesota is in a unique position as part of the Midwest, the Great Lakes area and the Northwest regions of the United States. It seems the Land of 10,000 Lakes has a lot of different types of opportunities all blending together.

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Unfortunately, however, the state has seen nearly 1,500 people a year move from the state to other parts of the country to take advantage of opportunities not found in Minnesota. The landscapes might be gorgeous, and the Twin Cities might be bustling, but some people seem to get their fill of these things after a certain amount of time.

27. Indiana

Home to the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Colts, the state of Indiana seems like a sports lover's dream. But not everyone loves sports, of course. Sandwiched between Illinois and Ohio, Indiana hasn't been able to maintain a steady increase in its population in recent years.

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Last year, 48.8% of people involved in cross-boundary moves were headed away from Indiana, as opposed to the 51.2% who moved around inside the borders of the state. No explanation was provided for why these families left the state, but it's likely it was to pursue better opportunities found elsewhere.

26. New Mexico

Guilty of having the fourth-worst unemployment rate in the nation — a concerning 4.8% — New Mexico can't help but lose plenty of residents to states with better jobs with higher wages. With a 48.9% departure rate, New Mexico has seen 876 different families leave the state in the past year.

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If the state wants to combat this number, they will need to enact policies that help provide opportunities for all instead of just some. It could be argued that the 51.1% moving in is good enough, but it would be better if the number was higher.

25. Rhode Island

The smallest state in America by square footage but the second most densely populated, Rhode Island's slow and steady increase in out-of-state moves probably has to do with logistics. It's a beautiful place, the residents are moderately well-off and there's not much to complain about — yet 49.2% are moving away, on average.

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Even the state's unemployment rate, while slightly higher than the national average at 3.6%, isn't much to worry about. It's reasonable to assume that Rhode Island's human migrations are driven solely by those who are too claustrophobic to hold onto their homesteads in a tight space any longer.

24. Mississippi

Things aren't going well for Mississippi residents these days. Much to the dismay of the state's occupants, the unemployment rate sits at the second-worst in the entire U.S. — a dismal 5.5% — and the state is experiencing one of the highest exodus rates in the nation — 49.4%.

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Mississippi and Arkansas represent a divide when it comes to human migration. The two states are engaged in a precarious balancing act, with people migrating to the state but similar numbers of people leaving. In many cases, people leave to go to other areas where they can make a decent living.

23. Arkansas

Sitting at an (almost) even split, Arkansas residents have seemingly reached an impasse: 49.7% are clamoring to leave the state, but 50.3% of recent moves across the state's boundaries have been inward instead of outward. The state is practically divided evenly.

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Overflowing with nature preserves, mountains, caves and significant natural landmarks, Arkansas holds a lot of appeal for those in search of the quiet life. As the numbers show, however, 49.7% of residents end up changing their minds about living in the Natural State, probably for financial reasons.

22. Maine

Maine has been around for almost two centuries now, but something is keeping people from moving there. It has deep historical roots, great opportunities for those wanting to work out on the water and plenty of the best seafood. Still, 50.6% of residents involved in a move in the last year couldn't get out of Maine fast enough.

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The only state to border just one other state, Maine boasts a low unemployment rate (2.8%) and is famous for its incredible nature preserves. Moving to Maine seems like a no-brainer, but real Maine residents obviously disagree.

21. Missouri

Missouri might be known as the Show Me State, but it seems like more and more people are looking to see less of the Midwestern state. Whether it’s because of the state’s failure to revitalize the city of St. Louis or the seemingly unending bouts of bad weather, Missouri is losing residents at a rate of 51%.

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With 51% of people moving outside the state compared to only 49% moving in, you can see why the state is headed for disaster. With just a little effort invested in the right places, it wouldn’t be hard for Missouri to improve these numbers.

20. North Dakota

North Dakota is incredibly rich in natural resources and has countless stunning natural landmarks, but the population of the state has seen a steady decline in the past few years. The reason for this decline lies in the state's aforementioned national resources, actually. When oil prices go down, jobs disappear in the area.

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Even when people don’t lose their jobs, there are higher paying jobs elsewhere. Despite a low 2.5% unemployment rate, North Dakotans who have moved across state lines are leaving the state at a rate of 51.3%.

19. Virginia

Like its neighbor, West Virginia, the state of Virginia is struggling to keep its residents content. With a population of more than 8 million, the state has to make sure there are plenty of opportunities and resources readily available for residents. If that doesn’t happen, you get a mass exodus of 51.6%.

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There's no shortage of jobs, and an unemployment rate of 2.6% is actually something to be proud of, so what is causing the problem? It could simply be a shortage of reasons to stay in the state. Some other states just might have more to offer than Virginia. It’s as simple as that.

18. Utah

At a 51.7% departure rate, Utah is one of only a few states sitting at an almost even split — half of the human migration is coming in, while the other half is going out. These numbers are evidence of an imbalance currently going on across the nation. Some states have ample opportunities, while others are lacking.

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Fortunately for those coming into the state, Utah is proud to report an unemployment rate of only 2.5%. However, that doesn't mean that all those jobs provide residents with everything they need. Plenty are having to resort to relocation to find jobs that pay them enough to thrive.

17. West Virginia

Strangely, West Virginia is about as close as you can get to the nation's capital without actually being in D.C., but the unemployment and migration rates are some of the worst in the country. At 4.8% and 51.8%, respectively, these numbers clearly show that something needs to be done.

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You might think people would flock to West Virginia to get a taste of its fascinating historical landmarks and the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, but that isn't the case at all. West Virginians would clearly rather find work out of state than continue to look within.

16. Nebraska

Technically part of both the Great Plains and the Midwest, Nebraska is a unique little slice of history located in one of the most sparse areas of the United States. Nicknamed the Cornhusker State, Nebraska boasts a large number of residents who are involved in either agriculture or freight.

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Although the state has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at a modest 3.1%, Nebraska continues to lose residents to neighboring states at a rate of 52.6%. This means the state can expect its population to decline slightly as the years go by.

15. Maryland

Thanks to its unique state lines, 16 of Maryland's 23 counties actually touch Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean. That sounds beautiful — and it is — but residents of Maryland might have a different story to tell.

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In 2018, United Van Lines reported that 53.1% of moves across Maryland's state lines were for people leaving as opposed to moving in. Their mediocre unemployment rate — slightly above the national average — probably isn't to blame. In all honesty, the blame probably lies with better jobs to be found in other states.

14. Kentucky

Originally part of Virginia before seceding in 1792, the state of Kentucky has seen a steady decline in population in the 2010s. Currently facing a rate of human migration that sits at 53.5%, Kentucky needs to think of a way to keep its residents from fleeing the state before it's too late.

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On top of the departure rate, the state also struggles with the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the entire United States — a whopping 4.5%. It seems Kentucky just can't seem to hold on to even the most loyal residents.

13. Wisconsin

Comprised of equal parts forest and farm and bordered by two Great Lakes, Wisconsin sits between Minnesota and Michigan. The state prides itself on its plethora of breweries and its rich natural history. Unfortunately, however, these things can't seem to convince people to stay.

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At a solid 54% departure rate, the Badger State has a lot of interesting things to offer in terms of nature, but it’s one of the biggest offenders when it comes to out-of-state moves. For whatever reason — increasing difficulties in 21st-century farming, perhaps? — many former Wisconsin residents decided they could do better somewhere else.

12. Louisiana

A wonderful combination of Canadian, French, African and American cultures, Louisiana is one of the most vibrant and original states in the United States. Upon closer inspection, however, things aren't as pleasant as they may seem from the outside. Louisiana has been dealing with high levels of human migration and a very high unemployment rate in recent years.

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Ever since Katrina hit the state hard in 2005, Louisiana and its residents have never truly recovered. A migration rate of 54.3% and an unemployment rate of 4.5% — the seventh-highest in America — have been disastrous for the state.

11. California

It's baffling to consider that there are more people in Los Angeles County, California, than there are in more than 40 other American states. At a total population of nearly 40 million, California is the country's most populated state by a landslide. That number is starting to get smaller, however.

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Of the nearly 23,000 moves across state lines in 2018, 54.4% of them can be credited to people leaving the state instead of moving to it. We can probably blame wildfires, unbearable traffic, earthquakes, overpopulation — or the horrible combination of them all.

10. Michigan

Tied with Montana, the state of Michigan also seems to have a problem holding onto its residents. You’re probably familiar with the many serious problems associated with the state’s largest city, Detroit, but you may not know that 55% of residents’ moves in the last year were to other states.

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Trying its best to recover from a staggering unemployment rate (4.1%), Michigan has some great lakes (no pun intended) but some seriously troubling logistical issues that they can't seem to recover from quickly. Not to mention, Flint still doesn't have clean water.

9. Montana

Montana is one of the key staples of Northwestern America. Home to beautiful mountains and plenty of other unbeatable feats of nature, Montana is the fourth-largest state based on square mileage but the third-least densely populated when examining the actual population of the state.

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At a 55% departure rate as recently as last year, many people seem to have found some unacceptable problems lodged amid Montana's spectacular sights. It's possible that tourism is to blame. At an increased rate of more than 13 million people visiting a year, Montana has an ever-increasing number of tourists to go with its steadily decreasing residential population.

8. Iowa

Despite having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country — an impressive 2.6% — the Midwestern state of Iowa can't seem to keep people from leaving. In the last year, 55.5% of movers were headed outward instead of moving elsewhere within the state lines.

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Like many other Midwestern states, Iowa is known for its vast farmland and — actually not much else, it seems. The capital city of Des Moines has all kinds of artistic and cultural attractions to offer, but there still comes a point when residents have seen all there is to see.

7. Massachusetts

The most populous state in the New England area, Massachusetts is home to Boston as well as all kinds of beautiful coastal cities along the Atlantic Ocean. With more than 80% of the population residing in or around Boston, it's fair to say the city is what put the state on the popularity map.

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As of 2018, United Van Lines reported that 55.7% of moves were to take residents out of the Bay State. Whether Boston is getting too populated or the rural areas are getting too sparse, one thing is certain: Many Massachusetts residents would much rather live elsewhere.

6. Ohio

With a population nearing 12 million, Ohio surprises by not being as unassuming as it seems. A large number of people confined inside a relatively small state is basically a recipe for disaster, which is probably why 56.5% of the moves in 2018 were people who chose to put Ohio in their rearview mirrors.

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With Columbus and Cleveland boasting the largest numbers in the state and the tenth-highest unemployment rate in America — 4.2% as of the most recent survey — it's no wonder people can't seem to settle down in Ohio. There are too many negatives going against it.

5. Kansas

Dorothy and Toto might not be in Kansas anymore, but neither are 58.7% of the state's former residents who recently moved from the Sunflower State. Despite a relatively low unemployment rate, Kansas doesn’t seem to be able to tempt locals into staying for the wide-open spaces.

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Completely landlocked on all sides and located smack-dab in the middle of the Midwest, the state is probably facing a wave of residents who want better job opportunities and a more interesting environment. All those fields and farmland probably lose their appeal over time, particularly for younger generations.

4. New York

The home state of the most populous city in the United States is obviously one of the most recognized states in the country — at least for now. According to United Van Lines, 61.5% of the moves across state lines in New York in 2018 were to get people out of the state and not move them into it.

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On top of being viewed by some as a dangerous place, the state's unemployment rate continues to grow far past the national average. Currently sitting at 4%, the rate will likely continue to rise, according to experts.

3. Connecticut

The southernmost state in the country's New England region, Connecticut seems like an incredibly peaceful place to live. Filled with beautiful coastal towns, excellent schools like Yale and plenty of eclectic attractions, the state certainly has a lot to offer.

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However, its percentage of people on the way out — an even 62% — tells a completely different story. It's not unemployment, crime or weather driving people out of Connecticut — it’s the taxes. With an average state income tax above that of the average U.S. income tax rate, it's pretty likely that this explains things.

2. Illinois

Illinois, also known as the Prairie State, is a Midwestern staple. Home to the city of Chicago — called Second City due to its smaller-scale New York City vibes — the state has a dismal departure rate of 65.9%. It seems the Great Lakes aren't great enough to keep folks settled in the state.

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Additionally, Illinois’ unemployment rate is higher than the national average. It's possible that the lack of jobs coupled with the bad reputation of Chicago’s south and west sides have resulted in a mass exodus that only one other state has managed to surpass.

1. New Jersey

Located on the other side of Lower Manhattan's Hudson River, New Jersey is the number one state people can't seem to leave fast enough. According to United Van Lines' 2018 study, 66.8% of moves across the state's borders were to move residents to other states.

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With an unemployment rate of 3.2%, which falls a decent margin below the U.S. average rate of 3.6%, lack of opportunity doesn't seem to be to blame for the exodus. It seems people are simply fed up with the massive amounts of traffic and lack of space. Who can blame them?

And These Are the Top 5 States Americans Are Flocking To

If people are leaving these 30 states in droves, they have to be going somewhere, right? Of course. There are a handful of states that offer the right mix of economic opportunity, low cost of living and appealing climate to entice both relocating millennials and retirees alike. But with some of the obvious heavy-hitters — like New York and California — knocked off the list, which states are the most alluring?

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Miami
Photo Courtesy: Sebastian Carlosena/Wikimedia Commons

Survey says that the states that have experienced the most growth in terms of population over the last few years cater to both the over-60 crowd and young people who are entering the workforce, or looking for new gigs in more affordable areas. Read on to find out where you should head in order to lead a more comfortable lifestyle.

5. Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the droves of Americans moving to the Lone Star State. According to Business Insider, over 61,000 people moved to Texas between 2016 and 2017, and, in recent years, that number has continued to climb. In 2017, San Antonio, rife with cybersecurity start-ups, saw its population surge over the 1.5 million mark.

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Austin
Photo Courtesy: Michael Barera/Wikimedia Commons

Now even Houston — the oil and gas industry’s Mecca — is being outpaced by other cities in the state. Tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Google have all put down roots in Austin. Outside of the tech world, the Texas Workforce Commission reported that 240,000 jobs were created between 2017 and 2018, mainly in staple industries such as logging and mining. 

4. Washington

Like Texas, Washington has seen an increase in its population — over 62,000 new residents between 2016 and 2017 — thanks in large part to the arrival of a young, eager workforce. In 2016, millennials flocked to Washington, particularly Seattle, which plays host to the headquarters of several giants, including Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks and Boeing.

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Of course, this growth has also saddled Seattle with a housing crisis and an increase in the population of folks experiencing homelessness. Nonetheless, the Evergreen State remains popular. Although they don’t make up the bulk of the population increase, over a million retirees live in Washington. According to U.S. News and World Report, that population has shown a 47.2% increase over the last decade. 

3. North Carolina

In North Carolina, both the younger workforce and number of retirees are on the rise in fairly equal measure. Charlotte, perhaps the most well-known city in the state, has become a hub of banking and, there and elsewhere, the tech, pharmaceutical and food processing industries are beginning to form the state's economic backbone. It seems the Tar Heel State — dubbed as such for its long history of producing naval stores — needs a new nickname.

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North Carolina
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With several booming sectors and a lower cost of living than other locales, it’s no wonder North Carolina is an appealing place for folks just joining the workforce or looking for better opportunities. And with miles upon miles of beautiful coastline, lush pine forests and affordable homes, the state is also favored by retirees. According to SmartAsset.com, North Carolina ranks #3 among retirees, with roughly 15,665 people over the age of 60 moving to the state in 2016. 

2. Arizona

If you thought the Grand Canyon was something to marvel at, you clearly haven’t heard about Arizona’s staggering population boom. According to Business Insider, the state gained a staggering 98,843 people between 2016 and 2017, making Arizona the second fastest-growing state in the U.S.

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Sedona
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, U.S. News and World Report found that this warm state is also one of the most rapidly aging. With a relatively low cost of living, less expensive taxes and alluring year-round dry heat, Arizona appeals quite a bit to retirees. Thanks to a strong GDP, U.S. News and World Report also ranked Arizona’s economy tenth in the nation in 2019. Long story short: Don’t mock those folks from Sedona who talk about the place’s good vibes. 

1. Florida

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Year-round warmth, beautiful beaches, golf courses that stretch as far as the eye can see — all of those elements make Florida a long-time top choice amongst retirees. Between 2016 and 2017, the state gained a whopping 145,094 people, according to Business Insider.

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Florida Community
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Another reason folks love Florida? They aren’t taxed to death. In fact, Florida doesn’t impose a state income tax on its residents, which means it’s appealing to more than just the over-65 crowd. According to U.S. News and World Report, Florida ranked seventh among states with the best economic growth, thanks to industries such as agriculture, international trade, aviation and — of course — tourism.