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Job losses, medical issues and mounting bills have made a bumpy financial road for Sara and Carson Burchill. The young California couple has lived with Sara’s parents for the past decade to try and get ahead financially.

In the past year alone, they’ve made headway and paid off $18,000 in debt and boosted their savings. But with a new baby on the way and a 6-year-old son, they need more space for their growing family. Faced with uncertain job prospects and minimum rents at $2,000 per month in Anaheim, the family has chosen to leave their home state.

It’s a scene being played out across the country. Americans are leaving states with high costs of living, crushing tax rates and lagging job markets for more affordable places with better career opportunities, according to an analysis of data from Realtor.com.

To find the top states people are leaving — and where they’re headed — we asked Realtor.com to crunch some data. First, the real estate listings website looked at Census data to identify which states lost the most population. Realtor.com then used its own search data of nationwide homes for sale listings to pinpoint the top states where people from the outward migration states were looking at homes on the market.

Those destination states had key factors in common, the data analysis found: better housing affordability, more job opportunities, and/or positive income growth. We’ve listed the top 10 exodus states and the top five arrival states below.

The choice to leave isn’t always easy, but for families like the Burchills, it’s driven by necessity.

“It’s like trying to find a unicorn,” says Sara Burchill of finding an affordable place to live in California. “If we stay here, we won’t have a lot of money left over for childcare, health care and the essentials. My husband has been offered a job [in Arizona] making the same salary he was here, but now we’ll get a $1,000 per month raise because rents are much less expensive. We’ll have less financial stress and spend more time together as a family.”

Top 10 states Americans are leaving

Soaring home prices and rents are forcing many families to pay more of their incomes toward housing. In fact, nearly half of all renters are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the latest State of the Nation’s Housing 2018 report released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. National median rent rose 20 percent faster than overall inflation between 1990 and 2016. Meanwhile, the median home price rose 41 percent faster, the report found.

Below is a list of the top states losing residents — and the top five destinations where people from each of these 10 states are moving to.

Top 10 states Americans are leaving (and the places they’re moving to instead)
Rank States with highest negative net migration1 Most-searched outbound states2 Inventory affordable for median households3 Income growth4 Employment growth4

1 Via Census, 2017
2 Realtor.com most-searched outbound states (Q1 2018)
3 Realtor.com percentage of inventory affordable for median households (July 2018)
4 2017-2018
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Realtor.com
1 New York 26.8% 6.7% 0.2%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
New Jersey 34.7% 3.2% 0.2%
Pennsylvania 52.7% 7.3% 0.2%
Connecticut 36.5% 4.4% -0.4%
North Carolina 33.2% 5.6% 1.8%
2 California 15.9% 7.5% 0.5%
Arizona 22.2% 6.9% 2.5%
Texas 26.8% 6.9% 2.6%
Nevada 15.8% 4.9% 2.8%
Oregon 13.8% 9.7% 1.2%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
3 Illinois 48.2% 6.4% 1.0%
Indiana 54.2% 4.0% 1.4%
Wisconsin 46.8% 6.5% 1.2%
Missouri 52.4% 6.2% 0.9%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Texas 26.8% 6.9% 2.6%
4 New Jersey 34.7% 3.2% 0.2%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Pennsylvania 52.7% 7.3% 0.2%
New York 26.8% 6.7% 0.2%
North Carolina 33.2% 5.6% 1.8%
South Carolina 35.3% 7.3% 0.9%
5 Louisiana 42.5% 4.4% 1.4%
Texas 26.8% 6.9% 2.6%
Mississippi 38.8% 1.8% 0.1%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Alabama 44.7% 5.2% 1.4%
Tennessee 34.6% 7.7% 0.9%
6 Pennsylvania 52.7% 7.3% 0.2%
New Jersey 34.7% 3.2% 0.2%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Ohio 57.7% 6.8% 1.3%
Maryland 44.3% 6.6% 0.6%
Virginia 42.9% 4.1% 1.1%
7 Maryland 44.3% 6.6% 0.6%
Pennsylvania 52.7% 7.3% 0.2%
Virginia 42.9% 4.1% 1.1%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
North Carolina 33.2% 5.6% 1.8%
Delaware 40.6% 4.5% 1.9%
8 Massachusetts 24.7% 6.0% 2.0%
New Hampshire 37.8% 6.8% 1.1%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Connecticut 36.5% 4.4% -0.4%
Maine 39.8% 8.1% 0.6%
Rhode Island 20.0% 5.6% 1.2%
9 Connecticut 36.5% 4.4% -0.4%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Massachusetts 24.7% 6.0% 2.0%
New York 26.8% 6.7% 0.2%
North Carolina 33.2% 5.6% 1.8%
Rhode Island 20.0% 5.6% 1.2%
10 Kansas 54.4% 5.3% 0.6%
Missouri 52.4% 6.2% 0.9%
Texas 26.8% 6.9% 2.6%
Florida 22.0% 8.1% 2.2%
Colorado 20.1% 6.8% 2.4%
Oklahoma 51.4% 3.3% 1.9%

Realtor.com’s visitor search data for outbound moves matched closely with U.S. Census data for states that have gained population. Florida is a top destination and the only state that gained residents from all 10 states on our list, followed closely by Texas and North Carolina.

Florida is a prime example of what’s motivating outbound moves. In Orlando, for instance, a strong jobs picture combined with affordable home prices is attracting new residents, says Javier Vivas, director of economic research with Realtor.com.

Orlando’s median home closing price is $240,000, its unemployment rate was 3.5 percent as of June, and there’s no state income tax. Compare that, for example, with New York City’s median home sale price of $745,000, an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in June, then add New York City personal income taxes, as well as state income tax rates ranging from 4 percent to 8.82 percent.

Numerous factors play a role in migration. Some states on Realtor.com’s list of places people are leaving, such as Louisiana and Kansas, aren’t seeing an exodus because homes are unaffordable but rather because there is lagging job and/or income growth, Vivas points out.

“Different trends are driving people out from different areas,” Vivas says. “As a homebuyer and as someone who wants to grow in one place, you need jobs and a solid income source. If you can make more money somewhere else, you’ll want to move.”

New tax changes, higher home prices may prompt more migration

Fewer affordable homes on the market, rising home prices and climbing mortgage rates have plagued homebuyers in recent years. And with recent tax law changes, folks in high-cost areas have another reason to think twice about where they live.

The new tax law increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for 2018 from $6,350 in 2017 (or $24,000 from $12,700 for married couples). With that increase, homeowners are more likely to take the standard deduction on their federal returns rather than itemize mortgage interest and property tax bills that fall below these amounts.

The new law caps deductible property and other state and local income taxes to $10,000. Additionally, it limits mortgage interest deduction on amounts up to $750,000, down from $1 million. Folks in places with higher home prices and property taxes, such as the Northeast and California, will be hit the hardest by this new wrinkle.

“If there isn’t an actual commitment to being in New York City, most people will choose the more leisurely, cost-effective options,” says Alex Lavrenov, a real estate agent with Warburg Realty in Manhattan. “[With the new tax laws in place] and the cost of their lifestyle increasing, it’s much easier to pick up and move. In Florida, you have a great climate, beaches and entertainment, and you get so much more for your money.”

With a seller’s market persisting throughout much of the country, entry-level buyers will be more likely to seek out states with affordable homes and abundant jobs, Vivas says. “People are tied to the issue of increasing prices. If you look at the broader spectrum [of what causes people to move], affordability comes in first, with jobs a close second.”

Study methodology
Realtor.com identified the top states losing population and compared origin versus destination housing and economic statistics. Specifically, researchers looked at the top 10 states with the highest negative domestic migration (per the latest U.S. Census estimates) and identified the top five destination states (based on the latest realtor.com online search data). Realtor.com found that many of the states receiving new residents from the 10 states had better housing affordability, positive income growth and/or positive job growth in common to explain inbound moves to those specific places.