California and New York residents partake in an exodus to inland states

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The map of the USA, propped with a worn compass and a leather book.

Scores of people have fled cities as the pandemic has groaned on, and there is no sign it is going to stop anytime soon. 

This exodus most squarely affects California and New York, yet it is curious that people have chosen to move now of all times. So, what benefits are these people looking for? What are they trying to escape? 

CNN Business, a financial news and information website operated by CNN, organized a chart that shows the percentage of inbound moves versus outbound moves for each state, meaning it shows how many people have been entering or leaving. The states with the highest percentage of outbound moves were not limited to New York (66.4%) and included Illinois (62.5%), New Jersey (60.6%), Louisiana (60.1%), and West Virginia (59.8%). These percentages are impactful, but it is even more interesting to find where people are settling in. 

Among the top of the chart for inbound states were Idaho (66.4%), North Carolina (64.6%), and Maine (62.4%). The runners-ups were New Hampshire and Alabama.  

People have been fleeing states like New York and Illinois for economic relief since lax work requirements allow for more flexibility in the workplace. The cost of living in these more urban and populated states has been increasing over the years, making it especially difficult to endure high costs during a pandemic. By moving to a state with lower living costs, such as Texas, Idaho, Tennessee, or Florida, people can avoid paying frequent, high taxes and can enjoy less expensive goods compared to the state they are departing 

Will Allan, Humanities Department Faculty, shares a similar idea as to what is influencing people to move.  

In my opinion, many factors play a role in people moving recently from states like CA, NY and IL to states like AZ, ID, CO and UT. I can narrow it down to two: politics and money,” Mr. Allan said. “If I had to narrow it down to one from there, it would be money and more specifically the cost of living. Two aspects of the cost of living that can be lowered immediately by moving are real estate prices and taxes. 

Another catalyst for migrations across the country is the ongoing pandemic. Job location is often the most important factor that dictates where a person will live. Because the pandemic has allowed for a large amount of work to be done virtually, people no longer need to live close to their jobs.  

Barry Schellenberg, Atlas Van Lines president, sums this up well by saying, People want to migrate where they want to go and a lot more companies are allowing employees to work remotely. Very large organizations have broadcasted to their employees: You don’t need to be close to the office anymore.” 

The exodus is not just limited to individuals, rather entire companies have made the trip to other low-tax states. According to Investor’s Business Daily, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Oracle (ORCL), and Goldman Sachs (GS) are making the move to Texas and Florida. However, other financial benefits these companies will find in Texas and Florida are lower property valuations and less stringent business regulations.  

Ed Yardeni, an economist, investment strategist, and author, said,states like California and New York not only have high tax rates, but they are also not business-friendly,” which fits with the narrative of people who are flooding to Texas, Tennessee, Idaho, and North Carolina. 

Aside from economic interests, some people have also found it easier to enjoy their lives after they made the move. One family from Seattle that made the move to Idaho said, “[Seattle] didn’t feel like home anymore. Arriving in Idaho has felt like going back 15 years. You get the sense in our neighborhood you’d be okay leaving the doors unlocked. We’ve met more neighbors in three months than we met in our old neighborhood in seven years. 

Given the large number of families moving around the country, I asked Mr. Allan if he believed people would continue to migrate, to which he gave an insightful answer. 

I believe that families will continue to migrate,” Mr. Allan said.People will always be sensitive to economic and financial pressures and attentive to the varying levels of the cost of living throughout the U.S. If a family is having trouble making ends meet, moving to a different part of the country with a lower cost of living is always a viable and attractive option.” 

Oftentimes, economic affairs have the most influence over the inbound states that people move to. It is no surprise that the people who are leaving California, New York, or New Jersey are seeking economic relief, but this life-changing opportunity came at a stark cost: the pandemic. One could easily wager that if the pandemic never occurred, life would have continued unimpeded; however, as more and more work has gone virtual, people no longer need to live near their work and are free to move wherever they please.  

As history reveals, migration is largely motivated by economic interests or safety, and by understanding these motives, it is interesting to find that history has repeated itself, in a way, through the migration of corporations and families from California, New York, and Illinois, to more economical states.