Top 19 States Seeing an Exodus of Locals

With 50 official states to choose from, U.S. citizens have more choices than most when it comes to picking a place to call home. Where people live depends on many things, yet some states simply don’t have as much to offer as others. Let’s look at the 19 U.S. states that people are falling out of love with.

New York

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The Big Apple’s state has experienced a steady population decline in recent years, mainly due to unaffordable housing, high costs of living, congestion, and a lack of employment. According to Spectrum News, between 2010 and 2020, New York lost over 1.4 million residents to other states, including a large proportion from New York City.

Illinois

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The Prairie State faces ongoing economic challenges, high taxes, and political instability, contributing to a population decline that shows no sign of stopping. The Chicago Tribune reports that Black residents in particular are leaving in high numbers, hoping to find greater racial equality, job opportunities, and social unity elsewhere.

California

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The PPIC confirmed that the Golden State “lost 433,000 people between July 2020 and July 2023.” Skyrocketing housing costs, regular wildfires, poor air quality, and traffic congestion are to blame, prompting many residents to ‘up sticks’ for a cheaper, cleaner, and less populated place to live.

New Jersey

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High property taxes and escalating costs of living have forced many NJ residents to relocate to lessen their financial burdens. NJ.com states that the state has witnessed a net population loss of over 800,000 residents to other states over the past decade—a faster rate of population decline than most other U.S. states experienced in the same time period.

Louisiana

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The Advocate notes, “Louisiana’s population continues to shrink—down by nearly 13,000 people to make it one of 16 states to lose population between 2019 and 2020.” The main reasons for the exodus are economic struggles, high crime rates, and vulnerability to natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding.

Massachusetts

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Well known for its high costs of living, especially in Boston, Massachusetts has an extortionate housing market and long commutes for those in more affordable suburbs. However, finances weren’t the number one reason cited by residents leaving the state—CBS News states that most departed for employment, family, retirement, or lifestyle reasons.

Connecticut

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Yankee Institute says the state lost 180,341 and 319,020 residents in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and that domestic migration into the state was low. The most significant driving force seems to be financial, with a struggling economy, high taxes, and unusually high living expenses.

Maryland

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With over 277,000 people leaving for other states from 2010 to 2020, Maryland is suffering a population decline, too. As with many other states on this list, the primary reasons are fiscal—once again, high taxes and unaffordable housing are prompting residents to find somewhere they can enjoy better financial freedom and more luxuries.

Hawaii

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Despite its unrivaled tropical beauty, the high cost of living on this North Pacific island is causing many to abandon it for mainland alternatives. Hawaii News Now labels Honolulu, the state capital, as the most expensive rental market in the U.S.! And it’s not just housing that’s unaffordable—groceries, utilities, and many other goods are also overpriced.

Rhode Island

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Rhode Island’s financial challenges have led to a struggling economy and few job opportunities. Cities like Providence, while culturally rich, have faced such significant economic hardships that many residents have been forced to look for employment in other states, leading to a sharp decline in population.

New Mexico

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With a crime rate that is the highest for any state nationwide, many New Mexico residents have left due to concerns over property and personal safety, according to CrimeStats. Economic struggles have further accelerated the decline and led to more crime, particularly in cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

West Virginia

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The Charleston state has struggled with population decline for years, primarily due to economic challenges due to its heavy dependence on outdated industries now in decline—namely coal mining. Consequently, young people and families have been leaving en masse, looking for better opportunities, leading to an aging, shrinking population.

Vermont

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While Vermont offers picturesque landscapes and a tranquil lifestyle, its high taxes have prompted some residents to seek more affordable states to reside in. Property taxes are exceptionally high, making home ownership challenging, while the state’s largely rural landscape means few jobs in industries like tech, finance, and legal.

Pennsylvania

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Although Pennsylvania’s larger metropolitan areas are still fairly bustling, smaller cities and rural communities have recently experienced a severe decline as young people move to cities, often in other states. Cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown are often shunned for out-of-state alternatives with better economies and employment options.

Mississippi

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This southern state has been in a population decline for many years, largely due to racial instability, few economic opportunities, and a woeful education system. Mississippi Today also reports that Jackson, the state’s urban center, suffers from water shortages, extreme poverty, neglected public services, and water shortages.

Ohio

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Ohio’s population flux is uneven, with rural areas facing severe declines while metropolitan areas (like Delaware) experience population gains. However, the overall trend is downward, mainly because the manufacturing sector has faced economic decline, forcing lower-income households in particular to look for employment elsewhere.

Michigan

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Like Ohio, its northwest neighbor, Michigan, has also faced a sharp population decline in regions heavily reliant on manufacturing, such as Detroit and Flint. While some cities, like Grand Rapids, have seen growth, economic struggles in rural areas have prompted residents to relocate to states with more diversified economies.

Alaska

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Alaska Public Media reports that the beautiful but cold northern state has been steadily losing its population over the past decade. Despite abundant natural beauty and stunning landscapes, the harsh climate and limited economic opportunities mean that living costs are often unaffordable.

Alabama

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With a vast rich/poor divide, relatively high crime rates, and limited job prospects in certain regions, particularly the Black Belt counties, Alabama isn’t the most attractive state to reside in. While cities like Birmingham still offer employment, many residents in less affluent areas have migrated to other states in search of jobs.

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