More People Still Moving Out of Virginia than Moving In

Virginia is still leaking population through out-migration, according to the most recent United Van Lines national movers study, which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns in 2018. The gap between those moving into the state and moving out was small — 48.4% inbound compared to 51.6% outbound, but it continues a discouraging trend of the past several years and seemingly cements the robust in-migration of previous decades.

Dig into the numbers, however, and there were some consolations.

When movers listed their reasons for moving in and out of the state, the biggest gap was retirement. Can you say, “Income tax avoidance?” Virginia’s 5.75% income tax rate puts the Old Dominion at a significant disadvantage when it comes to retaining retirees with the freedom and means to live where they wish and a desire to maximize after-tax income. Possibly related to the loss of retirees, Virginia also suffered from a “lifestyle” deficit. Not enough shuffleboard courts, I suppose.

On the positive side, significantly more people listed jobs as a reason for moving into the state than moving out, an indicator of economic dynamism.


Another sign of economic vibrancy is that Virginia is experiencing a net gain in young people (ages 13 to 34, and 35 to 44). If our youth are our future, than our prospects may be better than the overall numbers suggest. The middle-aged age cohort was stable, while older age brackets showed the biggest gap between those moving in and moving out — consistent with the retirement numbers.

Also encouraging is the finding that Virginia is getting more upper-income migrants (making $150,000 income or more), to some degree offsetting the loss of middle-class households. We’ll have to wait for publication of the Internal Revenue Service taxpayer migration database, however, to see if Virginia is a net gainer or loser of income overall.


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19 responses to “More People Still Moving Out of Virginia than Moving In”

  1. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    I fear there is huge divergence of the impact on rural vs urban areas. I suspect that the gains are in the urban areas and there are disproportionate rural losses. Without that information, this report isn’t very helpful.

  2. Obviously Virginia has a lot of people taking transfer jobs here for the gov’t/military/etc. and they either get transferred out again, or they retire here, and if they retire here, have to decide to stay or flee (car taxes, etc).

    I do not know if Steve Haner would agree with me, but I see our overall tax strategy to be kind-and-gentle to rural Va./long time Virginians/military/immigrants and unfriendly to transfers-in/middle income retirees/NoVA.

    My excuse we were heading to Pa. (over NJ and Va.) but got our foot stuck in the door (our family transferred in after us).

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Our “growth” in the Fredericksburg Area is primarily two types.

    1. – new hires for Govt/contractor jobs in NoVa. We have our share of military but when one leaves another transfers in but the net increase is new hires – some of which are retired military going to work for govt contractors.

    2. – Retirees from NoVa – who flee the high taxes but want to remain close because of famly ties. We are building a lot of empty-nester/upscale Apartments and Condos for “active” retired.

    Anyone who doubts Number 1 above – need only look at what is happening to I-95 between Fredericksburg and NoVa. Anyone who has traveled that stretch recently can attest to it..if they doubt the numbers.

  4. Inthemiddle Avatar

    VAConsumerAdvocate and LarrytheG present data consistent with earlier posts on economic well-being in Virginia. The loss of furniture making, textiles, coal jobs in south/southwest VA have diminished the economic opportunities in those regions of our state. The question is where to move for better opportunities. Given the geographical and cultural proximity of NC, it would seem a likely destination.

    Having moved to VA for retirement, I regularly receive expressions of surprise from people still working here. Their goal is to move south after retirement, complaining about the cold weather. Admittedly, it is difficult to separate warm weather and lower taxes in our southern states as determinants of where they plan to move. (Not a problem for me – we moved here from Minnesota for the warmer weather!)

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    From what I’ve seen and heard, Fairfax County has been experiencing domestic outmigration for many years despite a lot of people moving here for jobs. But for migration from other nations, Virginia’s largest locality would be losing population.

    I also understand that more of those moving to Fairfax County from other nations have lower incomes than those moving out. This has affected Fairfax County’s and its Schools’ needs for more expensive services. Demographic changes are, of course, neutral but they are real and do affect government budgets and revenues.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      You make several important points. Obviously, too, I lot more digging behind these raw numbers needs to be done before we can really begin to figure out what these numbers mean, what is driving them, what they bode for the future. And what we might do or change to diminish and/or leverage the consequences.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    In terms of out-migration from NoVa… I have to also listen to folks who talk about the unrelenting congestion… NoVa has to be growing. All the metrics point to it. There might well be some folks leaving but they are more than replaced by others coming in.

    In terms of going to NC – need to distinguish between someone who is of working age and has no job and is looking for one versus someone who is retired and looking for better weather or lower taxes.

    Someone in RoVa – say 40 or 50 years old – where should they go for a job?

    I don’t think NC has any jobs for them either.

  7. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    In many portions of the world historically and today, the growth of large urban centers is typically the sign of increasing poverty and social decay for growing numbers of people, not rising social health and egalitarian prosperity. Mexico City for example, and most all, if not all, the great urban centers of ancient Central and South America, the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates in Middle East, as well as India, and China, and Europe.

    Population growth alone is only a starting point toward figuring out the dynamics of a place, whether it is trending toward feast or famine or chronic poverty for most people there.

  8. If you are already 50 years old and coming here from RoVa, it would be more difficult to move to NoVa, but hardly impossible.

    The entry ticket is a relatively expensive close-in residence OR a ghastly commute. If you can’t handle this entry ticket it can be very tough to get established here. I urge the few folks who want my advice to bite the bullet, locate close-in and view the high cost of housing as an enforced savings plan since the real estate market remains solid here if they ever need to cash out and move away.

    Retirement in NoVa after working here? Pluses:
    + Home is already set up here.
    + Friends and community are already here.
    + Medical expertise is already lined up here.
    + Cultural opportunities, museums, galleries, theaters abound here.
    + Good parks, relatively nearby hiking and boating and beach opportunities, and plenty of getaway properties available within a 3 hour range offering more of these.
    + Lots of good restaurants here.
    + Local economy is solid, neighborhoods are mostly being fixed up, not in decline.
    – Good schools, public and private, all levels.
    + An Eastern urban lifestyle is available close by for those attracted to it, even if you don’t choose to live in it yourself, and it’s becoming safer.
    + Kids that grew up here want to stay here during the Holidays and see friends as well as family.
    + Visitors like to come to stay with you in the D.C. area.
    + Many transportation options to and from here (Northeast Corridor and all that).
    + Temperate, moist climate for growing things, with lots of seasonal variety.
    + It’s in Virginia — which, even if the GA occasionally earns the “ICS” nickname, is a relatively well run and congenial State.

    – State and local taxes are higher.
    – Other cost of living somewhat higher.
    – Daily getting around, other than regular commuting, is auto-centric.
    – Traffic congestion can be awful — moderated by a) inside the beltway living, b) knowing when and when NOT to go to certain locations or use certain roads, c) Lexus lanes.
    – Capital may remain tied up in appreciated real estate (but this may be an estate-planning advantage).
    – Assisted living help is expensive here.
    – The occasional very hot or very cold or rainy or snowy spell.

    On balance: we’re staying put, for now.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      What you say is true for some incoming migrants. The hard question is how many of those potential retirement migrants, or stay in place retirees, can afford to live the life in Northern Virginia that you can, not to mention working folks with young families to raise. I suspect that very few can afford the privilege, especially id one considers all the other options, particularly down south.

      Virginia needs to find ways to fix this problem. The Amazon deal may very well help kick start solutions for all demographic segments of our society, if Virginia’s leaders apply themselves to the right solutions, made possible by the Amazon deal. The education component to that deal is a potentially strong step in that direction. But much remains between the lip and cup.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Global warming is also a powerful solution to Virginia’s lagging retirees statistics. Let’s hope we can push Virginia’s mean temperatures upwards enough to match North Carolina’s or better yet South Carolina’s. Imagine if we could turn Norfolk Va. into Charleston, SC. Retiree numbers solved!

  9. New Jersey is really taking it on the chin. I know some of my friends have moved to DE, and some to PA. Some are staying now that the inheritance tax was reduced to instead tax gasoline, which NJ had lowest gaso tax for years.

    1. When New Jersey loses the Honeywell quarters to Charlotte, N.C., you know the state has problems. I’m guessing that Honeywell is just the tip of the iceberg.

      1. Did not hear about Honeywell.
        I should mention my extended family moved here from NJ. Quite a few New Jerseyans in NoVA.

        Funny lived there 25 years, but I cannot tell why they had lowest gaso tax….I never heard if there was a special interest group pushing for that. Not like here in Va. where we know rural parts of the state want the lower gaso tax.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    Any urban area is a dichotomy of rich and poor, the higher the population and growth – the more poor but as a percent of the total – I’d have to see those numbers. In 3rd world countries the percentage are much higher but historically so…

    In NoVa – and most urban areas – land prices tend to be high as are taxes.

    I think Acbars idea of holding property as a retirement asset is certainly true and we see that down south in Fredericksburg where NoVa folks sell their homes and build grand palaces down here with enough left over for a comfortable retirement to boot!

    However, the 40-50 year old living in RoVa with a marginal education that usually is what folks in rural areas 50 years ago received… is a significant obstacle to moving to NoVa for a job… or for that matter – any urban area unless they are going to take a service industry or similar job and housing of any kind is an affordability issue; I doubt they have the resources to buy what any long-time working professional of NoVa has.

    There is a dichotomy between rich(er) and poor(er) even among those who are long time residents of urban areas where such dynamics lead to paying teachers and public-safety folks far, far more than they’d earn in RoVa or even exurban Va but even then – it’s not enough to buy most of them a single-family home in a conventional subdivision.

    So there is a huge and strong demand even for not-so-great older neighborhoods where not all residents there are salt-of-the-earth types!

    So… I don’t know what the realistic prospects are for a RoVa migrant to NoVa. No question they can get a job but how good will it be with a 50-year old rural high school education? They’d basically be competing against others of similar circumstances for jobs like janitors or restaurant staff, etc – not factory-jobs or high-tech jobs… maybe warehouse or maintenance or trades…

    If they lived in RoVa, they probably had a piece of land they inherited that they could live on for cheap and garden and hunt – no such life in NoVa.

    So it’s not a cake walk – far from it. But living in RoVa without a job and depending on TANF, social security disability, etc actually is a competitive choice to a working life in NoVa on the lower end of the economic scale.

    This is an older map – but it gives an idea of Hispanic population ergo competition for labor type jobs as most are hardworking but not highly educated and as such they compose a high percentage of such jobs in NoVa and other urban areas:

  11. djrippert Avatar

    “So it’s not a cake walk – far from it. But living in RoVa without a job and depending on TANF, social security disability, etc actually is a competitive choice to a working life in NoVa on the lower end of the economic scale.”

    Think about the implications of your statement. Virginia is funding the utterly hopeless attempt to combat urbanization.

    “Eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.”

    1. That’s what I perceive too that our Va. tax system (I could be wrong) is extremely friendly to lower incomes….would like to see some kind of benchmark study to other states.

      >>But one piece of good news (recently saw a presentation by Stephen Goss-Chief Actuary of Social Security) social security disability claims are way down nationwide since 2010, and still trending down. It would be interesting to see how Virginia compares to other states in that regard.

  12. […] Virginia continues to lose residents year after year. The 51.6% outbound reflects a growing retirement population looking for more affordable places to retire. […]

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