In a separate United Van Lines study, Illinois was No. 2 on a list of outbound states in 2021, coming in behind New Jersey at No. 1. Other outbound states on the list are New York, Connecticut and California. The top three growth states on United’s list are Vermont, South Dakota and South Carolina, which United says is evidence more Americans are moving to low-density areas.
The numbers from both studies are based on the amount of moves U-Haul and United Van Lines helped facilitate over the last year.
According to United, residents leaving Illinois moved out for three main reasons: retirement, family or job-related reasons. Residents 65 and older were the largest age group to leave Illinois, making up nearly 33% of movers. The second-largest age group to leave Illinois at 24% was comprised of residents ages 55 to 64.
Wealthier residents tended to move out of Illinois more often as well, according to United’s data. Those making $100,000 or more annually made up about 72% of residents leaving, which is up from 67% in 2018.
However, residents moving to Illinois also tend to be higher earners. About 67% of residents moving to Illinois earned $100,000 or more annually, which is about the same as in 2018. Additionally, 43% of Americans moving to Illinois cited family as their primary reasons for moving, followed by job-related reasons at 36% .
The COVID-19 pandemic and the flexibility given to many Americans by remote work trends is, in part, a reason more Americans are leaving dense cities where they previously may have been forced to live because of the location of their workplace, said Emily Talen, a professor of urbanism and urban design at the University of Chicago.
“The pandemic definitely fueled this notion of ‘I can live anywhere,’” Talen said. “It’s about people searching for high quality of life.”
But even before the pandemic, more Americans were leaving dense cities for smaller cities and college towns, Talen said, and were mainly making decisions to move based on proximity to family, weather and affordability. There is less evidence and data pointing to people making moving decisions based on crime in a specific area, Talen added.
“These messages of Illinois losing people to other states, they really need to be nuanced,” Talen said. “There’s such wide variation in demographics and location and the reasons people choose [to leave]. There just isn’t one answer. It’s pretty complicated.”