Peg DeMarco

Peg DeMarco

According to an online article by Esther Trattner of MoneyWise, Americans seeking a better way of life are no longer hesitating to pack their bags and move.

United Van Lines, the largest moving company in America, says its latest data shows Americans on the move still favor places in the West and South and listed the top 15 states in which residents have called it quits to start over somewhere else.

No. 15 was Maryland, with outbound moves at 53.1 percent. The high cost of living, above-average health-care costs, exorbitant taxes and soaring home prices are pushing residents to look elsewhere for jobs and an affordable retirement. Half of people who left in 2018 were 55 and older.

Kentucky was second, with outbound moves at 53.5 percent. The lack of good jobs and the fact that Kentucky hasn’t raised the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for 10 years are two strikes against settling in the state.

Wisconsin was next, with outbound moves at 54 percent. The state’s low cost of living and steady, if slow, employment growth remains attractive, but housing prices have been rising rapidly and to record levels. Another negative is Wisconsin’s long, brutal winters.

Next up was Louisiana, with outbound moves at 54.3 percent. Job growth is near stagnant in Louisiana, and taxes high: The average combined sales tax is second-highest in the U.S. at 9.46 percent. Though the natural-gas, methanol and technology industries are growing in Louisiana, an overwhelming 70.8 percent of people who move out are heading to new jobs elsewhere.

In 11th place was California, with outbound moves at 54.4 percent. The top reasons people move out include jobs (41 percent), followed by family issues (25 percent) and retirement (22 percent). According to the article, a CNBC study ranked California last in the nation for business friendliness and 49th out of the 50 states for cost of living. My comment: The ever-present threat of “the big one” earthquake also has got to play on people’s psyche.

Michigan and Montana tied percentages of outbound moves at 55 percent. About half the people who moved out of Michigan in 2018 said the primary reason was jobs, and about a quarter said retirement was the driving factor. The top reasons people moved out of Montana were to be closer to family and, with an aging America as a whole, a shortage of health care (2.3 doctors per 1,000 residents).

Iowa was in the eighth spot with 55.5 percent. Three-quarters of those moving away were looking for better employment. The largest group leaving the state were young people 18 to 34. Sad to say, they get their degrees from the University of Iowa or Iowa State and decide they’d rather settle down somewhere else due to an attractive job market.

Massachusetts, with outbound moves at 55.7 percent, took the not-so-lucky seventh spot. The exorbitant cost of living makes it difficult for residents to repay their student loans and make ends meet. People of all ages are leaving, with the 55-and-over seniors first to go.

Ohio takes the sixth spot. More than 6 out of 10 Ohioans who move out say they leave for job reasons or for better retirement destinations.

Despite Kansas’ low-cost, comfortable lifestyle and low unemployment, just 3.2 percent in August, nearly 64 percent of people who move out of the state are leaving for jobs elsewhere. As a side note, one must consider that Kansas lies right in the middle of Tornado Alley.

The Empire State lands in fourth place with 61.5 percent due to the sky-high living costs, bitter-cold winters up North, taxes that are among the highest in the country, and scarcity of jobs in New York’s rural areas. A Bloomberg study found that close to 300 people move out of New York City every day (high taxes was the reason for me).

Third place goes to Connecticut, with 62 percent of outbound moves. Rising taxes was the prime gripe, and people nearing retirement (ages 55 to 64) were most likely to move out.

Illinois took the No. 2 slot with 65 percent. The state has the nation’s second-highest property taxes and a steep, flat household income tax.

So, who took first place? That would be New Jersey at 66.9 percent, with people moving out faster than from any other state, according to United’s study. In fact, New Jersey has been one of the top 10 move-out states in each of the last 10 years. More than one-third flee the state because of job opportunities elsewhere, and an equal share leave to find greener pastures for retirement.

Peg DeMarco is a Morganton resident who writes a weekly features column for The News Herald. Contact her at pegdemarco@earthlink.net.

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