Study: Where U.S. Families Are Moving - MagnifyMoney

Where U.S. Families Are Leaving in Droves — and Where They’re Moving to

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While some media outlets report increasing challenges for families seeking a comfortable life in America’s biggest cities, leading to declining birth rates, other research claims most cities and metropolitan areas are as family-friendly as the nation as a whole. What’s clear is that the cost of living, and in particular the cost of childcare, presents significant challenges for those raising children in 2019 and beyond.

We analyzed U.S. Census Bureau migration data to understand which areas families with children are moving to, as well which metropolitan areas they are moving away from. For the purposes of this article, we defined a family as any household with children under the age of 18. Final rankings were determined by subtracting the number of families who left a metro area between 2016 and 2017 from the number of families who moved in.

Key findings

  • Riverside, Calif., took the top spot for highest migration, with a net inflow of 6,279 families. Nearly 15,700 families moved to Riverside while just under 9,400 left.
  • Phoenix, Ariz., was the second most popular spot for families to move to. In total, this metro saw a net inflow of 5,580 families. This city is also known for being a destination of choice for retired seniors and snowbirds, thanks not only to good weather but also retirement-friendly tax laws.
  • The country’s largest city, New York, saw about 38,100 families leave and 13,149 move in. This created a net outflow of just under 25,000 families, making it the city families are most likely to leave.
  • Other big cities like Los Angeles and Chicago did not perform well in this analysis, either, ranking second and third for net outflow of families. The good news for big cities is that they are the ones best able to recover from the loss of families. With a large population of young people, it is possible these cities can naturally replace the families leaving.
  • Apart from the three largest cities, other large cities round out the bottom 10. San Francisco, Washington, Miami, San Diego and Seattle all saw a net loss of families from migration.
  • On the state level, the most popular states for families to move to were North Carolina, Massachusetts and Texas. Those states saw a net gain of 10,108 families; 8,092 families; and 7,643 families, respectively.
  • The worst-performing states, according to our analysis, were New York, California and Indiana. New York lost 23,276 families; California lost 15,690; and Indiana lost 7,670.

Which states families are moving to

Riverside, Calif., ranks first on our list of the top 25 places families are migrating to. It’s followed closely by Phoenix, then by Tampa, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; and Orlando, Fla.

Surprisingly, these states rank relatively low on MagnifyMoney’s list of the top 25 happiest states in America. In that study, Arizona ranked 17th, followed by Oregon at 18th, while California and Florida came in 21st and 29th, respectively. Diving deeper into the categories that contributed to residents’ happiness, California ranked 11th in health, while Florida came 46th in economic stability.

Surprisingly, while the state of Arizona has a lower total population overall than California or Florida, its capital city, Phoenix, ranked second in the number of new families moving in. Florida is also a hot spot for educated workers who are drawn to its relatively low cost of living and low unemployment rates. These are some of the attributes responsible for two cities in Florida ranking in the top five places families move to.

Which states families are moving from

The largest exodus of families comes from the nation’s largest cities. The top five cities families are moving away from include New York, which is at the very top of the list with a net mobility of almost -25,000.

The difference in net mobility between New York and Los Angeles, the next city on the list, is more than 10,000 families. Chicago, San Francisco and Washington follow more closely behind.

These numbers support the recent MagnifyMoney happiness study that ranked New York the 39th happiest state in the U.S. and second-to-last in economic stability overall, just above the state of Louisiana. Another MagnifyMoney study ranked Washington and San Francisco among the top three most expensive cities in the nation, where even a six-figure salary may not be enough to afford housing and transportation costs or live a comfortable lifestyle.

On the other end of the spectrum, Colorado ranked third-happiest state in America, and Fort Collins, Colo., is lowest on the list of metropolitan places families move away from. It also has the second lowest number of families who are moving in.

The cost of moving

From packing supplies and moving trucks to hiring staff and taking time off work, moving and relocation expenses can put a significant dent in a family’s savings. On average, it costs between $2,000 and $5,000 per move more than 100 miles away, according to Consumer Affairs.

You may want to start saving for moving expenses now — or consider options such as an introductory 0% APR credit card or personal loan — to cover costs when making a move with your family across state lines. That’s especially true if your company won’t cover moving expenses.


In order to rank the places where families were moving, researchers looked at the number of families who moved from one metro area to another from 2016 to 2017. To define family, we looked at households with children under the age of 18. To create the final ranking, we subtracted the number of families leaving a metro area from the number of those moving in.