More People Left Virginia in 2020 than Moved In

by James A. Bacon

Virginia continued its multi-year losing streak in 2019 as a state where more people were moving out than moving in, according to the latest United Van Lines National Migration study. The moving company counted 4,008 households moving out while only 3,536 moving in, for a net loss of 472 households.

Fifty-three percent of Virginia’s moves were outbound. The outbound/inbound ratio was worse than all but twelve other states. Even West Virginia out-performed Virginia.

Other states along the South Atlantic Seaboard — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida — all saw population gains. If it’s any consolation, Virginia, which more closely resembles New Jersey politically and sociologically with each passing year, didn’t do as badly as the Garden State, which came in dead last. We still have a long way to fall.

The United Van Line statistics are valuable mainly as an early indicator of migrations. The Internal Revenue Service, which tracks changes of address for all taxpayers, publishes more authoritative data, but that report won’t come out for months.

In the meantime, Virginians should be asking themselves: Why are more people leaving that coming? For decades the Old Dominion gained population from other states. Only in the past decade have we been an exporter of human capital. Why, why, why?

The United Van Lines report offers some insights that the IRS stats do no.

Retirement. The report lists the top states where people listed retirement as a motivation. Believe it or not, as a percentage of in-bound moves, Delaware ranked No. 1. Florida, unsurprisingly, ranked second, South Carolina 3rd and North Carolina 10th. Virginia did not appear in the top ten list.

Health/Personal reasons. This is the one category where Virginia scored well — No. 4 in the country. Who would have guessed? The Old Dominion is not top of mind as a place associated with healthy living. It would interesting to know what motivations “personal” covers. Wyoming topped the list, by the way.

Closer to family. Minnesota topped this list. Virginia did not appear in the Top 10.

New job. This motivation is a metric of economic dynamism. Remarkably, the top states where inbound migrants listed “new job” as a motivation were Nebraska, North Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi. Virginia was not in the top ten.

Lifestyle change. Once again, Wyoming was the winner in this category, followed by Idaho, Nevada and Maine. Washington, D.C. ranked 6th. Virginia did not appear in the top ten.

Cost of living. Of the six major factors influencing in-bound migrants, the Cost of Living was cited the least frequently. Not surprisingly, less urbanized states ranked in this category, topped by Idaho, Kentucky and New Hampshire. Virginia did not appear on the list.

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60 responses to “More People Left Virginia in 2020 than Moved In

  1. Of the people I know that have left Virginia, North Carolina seems to be the most common destination.

    • Wilmington area. Perfect geographically. SE facing coast virtually guarantees daily summer sea breezes and really mild winters.

      • Also, the water… if you’re into cancer

        • Alligators around the battleship N.C. according to nearby warning signs.

        • What’s my last name spelled backwards? Problem solved. Just like Republicans solved the problem (they created) in Flint.

          • The problem in Flint wasn’t created by Republicans. It was created by incompetence.

            Unless Republicans are somehow responsible for engineering decisions related to water treatment?

          • Yes, a Republican Emergency Manager appointed by a Republican Governor directed the incompetent engineering decisions against warnings of EXACTLY what would, and did, happen.

            Heart of the case.

          • So an Emergency Manager is making decisions about water treatment chemistry?

            That doesn’t pass the smell test.

            In fact:

            “The engineers failed to protect the citizens of Flint by failing to meet the technical needs of the water treatment process and failing to live up to the ethical standards expected of them, which all engineers should look at in order to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. ”


          • It made it past the grand jury.

          • A grand jury composed of people who couldn’t spell “engineer”, let alone know what one is.

          • You can debate and deny the warnings of CO2 and global climate change, but water chemistry is concrete.

          • BTW, willful neglect depends on the criterion of “reasonable man”, not a knowledgeable one.

          • Yes, it is concrete. And it is something that an engineer, not a politician, not a bureaucrat, is responsible for.

            This case is like blaming the building inspector for not catching that the engineer who designed the foundation of a house specified concrete that wasn’t strong enough for the soil conditions.

            No pun intended.

          • He was warned by superior knowledge. He ignored those warnings. That is the very definition of negligence.

          • The root cause of the problem is negligent and/or incompetent engineers.

            It’s too bad that they didn’t get dragged into court.

            “The Flint Water crisis could have been avoided if the engineers involved in Flint had recognized
            the problems associated with the lead pipes and then proceeded to implement a pipe replacement
            plan. ”

            And Flint, according to what I just saw, is run by Democrats.

          • 30 minutes. If a governor, or person of similar authority, learns that his constituents are being poisoned by their water supply and does not warn them within 30 minutes, he is guilty of a breach of trust, and negligently contributing to the consequences.
            Personally, I’d give him another 15 minutes to formulate an apology for waiting 30 minutes.

          • How again do you believe that the Republicans created the problem in Flint?

            All the decisions leading up to what happened were made at the local level in Flint.

            Democratic Mayor. Democratic city council.

          • No. Under Michigan’s emergency management, the power of the local elected government is suspended.

          • That was AFTER the decisions were made at the local level leading up to the crisis, no?

            “because prior to and during the operation of the Flint Water Treatment Plant,
            measurements for bromate were not properly taken for much of the plant’s operation and the
            required testing for E. Coli and Cryptosporidium was not completed”


            “Here’s the problem with that: City officials did not drive the decision to take water from the Flint River. There was never such a vote by the city council, which really didn’t have the power to make such a decision anyway, because the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.”

          • Oh, I see. We’re going to blame the party (the state) that gave approval for the switch, even though regulations and accepted engineering practice were not followed at the local level to ensure that the switch would not cause problems.

          • Damn those pesky paper trails

          • I don’t expect an Emergency Manager to be familiar with the nuances of water treatment.

            The engineers involved, however, should be.

          • It’s low hanging fruit to blame the manager, especially when you don’t know the job of an Engineer or what they do.

          • I trust Va Tech, don’t you?
            “But an internal email obtained by Virginia Tech researchers shows that the governor’s office knew months ago that Flint’s families had reason to be worried about the problem and the response.”g

          • That article doesn’t validate your point, nor does it prove you know what engineers do.

            If you want to get to the problem, ask the Civil Engineer who would be a licensed PE.

          • Use the average of the first three terms of a divergent series as a “rule of thumb”?

          • “Nancy_Naive | January 15, 2021 at 9:55 am |
            Use the average of the first three terms of a divergent series as a “rule of thumb”?”

            Garbage in Garbage out with you.

          • Key words “Garbage in”

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    What is going on in South Dakota? Blizzard warning in Watertown today.

    • It is interesting. North Dakota is ranked as “High Outbound Moves” and South Dakota is ranked “High Inbound Moves”.

      Maybe people are moving from North Dakota to South Dakota for the warmer weather…

  3. There is nothing in Virginia’s tax code that makes it attractive to retirees, compared to other states. Parts of Virginia enjoy the same level of natural beauty as other states, but we don’t really market that. Southwest VA is not seen as a mecca for active retirees. We coasted for decades with no strategy except sucking up federal dollars. But for a daughter and two grandsons one mile away, I’d be pushing hard to move south. GTT.

    • As I recall, Governor Warner’s “tax-reform plan” aka tax hikes, removed a tax break for retiree income, providing an economic disincentive to retire here. And now we have all those woke legislators who feel a need to spend more money on illegal immigrants. Maybe, as part of further criminal justice reforms, the GA can make it a felony to move from Virginia once retired.

      Even Pennsylvania’s tax code invites retirees to stay where they are.

    • Bedford has tried marketing to retirees. It would be a good summer area. Still want/need a winter place in Venice Fla.

      • Buy my old house in Wintergreen and get Aubrey Layne as a cross-cul-de-sac neighbor. If I’d known he was coming I’d have dug in my heels and kept it….Many places there included snowbirds who left for months….

    • Might be OK if it keeps the half-backs away. (Yankees that retire to Florida, don’t like it and decide to split the difference here in Virginia).

      Yeah, Bedford & Franklin are loaded with them.

  4. Of my NOVA social circle, one stayed in the Research Triangle after college for work, and another moved to Raleigh just before the pandemic hit. Another is planning a move to a SC exurb of Charlotte. The ones sticking around DC are 1) a fellow Foreign Service brat who went into the family profession, 2) a very successful financial advisor, and 3) a guy living with his parents and applying for medical school for the third time around. Another NOVA acquaintance is shooting for a return home after school, but it’s equally likely he stays in Chicago. Another Novan immigrant to Chicago picked up a job as an LG engineer in western Michigan. Two other Novans went the ROTC route, so who knows where they’ll end up. Other NOVA acquaintances headed to Austin, SF, and New Orleans.

    Of my Virginian friends of non-NOVA origin: One Roanoker is aiming to live in Richmond after grad school, another hopes for a return to VAB after law school, and a third is a youth pastor/hipster bartender in the Valley. As far as I know, my other ROVA acquaintances are staying in the state for the time being.

    I’ve been between Cville, DC, and Boise in the last few years, and the West is looking increasingly attractive as the months roll by.

    • It is interesting to hear NovaLad’s stories. I hope others will chime in.

      Speaking for myself… My wife and I fantasized about retiring to Jackson, Wyoming, although I think it’s so expensive now we couldn’t afford it. We gave semi-serious thought to moving to Beaufort, N.C., a delightful historical town on the water. In the end, we decided to stay in Richmond near family and friends. One son, one daughter and a grandchild live in Richmond, and a second daughter and grandchild live not too far away in Durham, N.C. My elderly mother and siblings all live in Virginia. Laura’s elderly mother and siblings all live in N.C. We can’t imagine moving too far away.

      Another non-insignificant factor: It would be pretty tough blogging credibly for Bacon’s Rebellion… from North Carolina or Wyoming.

      • “Another non-insignificant factor: It would be pretty tough blogging credibly for Bacon’s Rebellion… from North Carolina or Wyoming.”

        Through the power of technology, James, we would never know the difference:

        I’d suggest McCall or Coeur d’Alene, ID if you want the Mountain West-on-the-water experience at a reasonable price. CDA is less than an hour from Spokane International if that’s important to you.

      • As for me, I have always been amazed that Virginia has tourists (aka tourons at W&M). Great place to live (sorry you NOVA malcontents), but seriously, who would vacation here?

        My possibly future ex-son’s-in-law parents own a timeshare in Williamsburg. WHY?

    • All of my college educated friends from my high school circles landed out of state, mostly Charlotte & Raleigh.

  5. I’ve been looking at Wyoming and northern Alabama.

    If I want to stay married Wyoming is out, so it’ll probably be northern Alabama.

    I’ve been a Virginian since I was six-months old and until five or six years ago I had never considered leaving. I was pretty sure I was going to retire here and live out my life here. Not any more.

  6. Been a Virginian my whole life. My parents were Virginias. Heck, my relatives have been in Virginia since the 1600s. I’m seriously considering retiring someplace else. My fantasy is South Dakota but SC may be more realistic. I just can’t stand the direction the State has taken. Had some friends move from Virginia to Montana and they are so happy.

  7. As to Delaware, my guess is lower taxes, milder, but still four season weather, and less than a day’s drive to the grandkids in the NE

  8. The net of movers into Florida PER DAY is 1000 persons. We have GOP Gov. and both halves of legislature, sensible RE taxes and no Inc tax.

    Lovely temps now but hot as Hades for 6 months. Iguanas reported falling out of trees is a somewhat droll winter hazard. We have two alligators reported near the ninth tee but so far no people problems. May flies sometimes cover the front of your vehicle. Most everyone’s turn signal must be broken.

    Nowhere is perfect…

  9. I grew up in Henrico, graduating HS in 1972.
    Went to college in MD.
    Lived in NOVA, Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church from 1976-1982.
    lived in MD from 1982-2019.
    Have lived in Falls Church since 2019, moved back here to be closer to family in Annandale with nephew soon graduating HS.
    Looking for next place to retire to. Currently considering Leesburg and Richmond in VA. Richmond because of a brother still living there who is in need of close care management, which is why most living decisions include being within several hours driving of Richmond.

    When considering Leesburg, I reached out to a former colleague and friend who is a libertarian/conservative, has owned a huge mansion and is downsizing.
    I joked with him (he exited MD 20 years ago for Leesburg because of their liberal politics) that “it was now safe for me to move back to VA” – which prompted him to say “I wish I could get out of here, I would move to TN but can’t since I invested so much in my 2nd lake house near Roanoke (Hey some have tough decisions).

    Another long time friend who spent 65 years in Richmond just moved to Eastern NC after retirement – not for politics, but for affordable waterfront property on Albermale Sound.

    I would never consider Tidwater even though I grew up going to Buckroe and VA Beach. BR’s reporter from there is the only piece I always make a point of skipping. I hate the traffic in the area, only experiencing it on the way to NC’s outer banks.

    My wife and I have no kids but family in VA and OH, so we will probably end up in the DMV somewhere, and still might land in Richmond. We also might move back across the river into MD. I would consider DE, love the beaches there, but unfortunately many of my Trump supporting friends moved there so it has been scratched off the list. (DE has no state income tax).

  10. Just received a note from a friend of mine, who is a realtor and with whom I’ve worked on a number of community projects and committees. Her husband, who I think is an engineer by training is retiring. Staying in McLean or Virginia? Nope. They are moving to another state.

  11. “Cost of living. Of the six major factors influencing in-bound migrants, the Cost of Living was cited the least frequently.”

    What about outbound? I suspect it is pretty high on the list and RE is the primary driver. Ahhh… but the baby boomers and developers made out well… as usual…

    • “What about outbound? I suspect it is pretty high on the list and RE is the primary driver. Ahhh… but the baby boomers and developers made out well… as usual…”

      The reason why COL has increased in areas specifically NOVA is because the expansion of the Federal Government. So blaming people who started working for the Government in the 70′;s for retiring and turning a profit when they leave is invalid.

      • So in order to sustain that, the COL increases and the government has to pay more to its employees. Those increased wages are, in turn, absorbed by the RE and development industry and the whole game of musical chairs starts anew. What do we end up with? Increased class division, unaffordable housing, McMansions in the exurbs, higher taxes to pay for new highways and hours long daily backups suffered by the working class. But, hey, it’s unfair to blame those who got theirs…🤷‍♂️

        • The COL increases has radiated out of the traditional regions of NOVA to accommodate the influx of positions and people to the Federal Government.

          “But, hey, it’s unfair to blame those who got theirs…🤷‍♂️”

          So because they benefited form being in the region prior to the expansion, they are “bad”.

          That’s not logic that’s just whining. Nothing your saying is the least bit logical, you just want to tear someone down for being successful. I suspect that doesn’t apply yourself though.

          I lived there, I didn’t begrudge someone who lived there longer than I had and therefore didn’t have to pay what I had to pay.

        • A model of local governance that can effectively reckon with second and third-order impacts of demographic change would be a nice thing to have — just don ‘t think it exists yet. At least not outside of Singapore, and that’s not a model we can or should emulate in VA.

          Blame our models, change our models — maybe blame the developers too, because they sure knew what was up — but blaming people for buying at the right time just engenders more of the class division you rightly castigate.

    • House purchased for $190K in Manassas in late 1988 is worth $500K in 2021.

      Considering the rate of inflation, 190K in 1988 is worth $415K today.

      Does that house REALLY seem like a good investment? Especially considering the interest and maintenance that it required through it’s life?

      Or maybe Manassas is just not a good place to invest in a house.

      Sources: Zillow. Prince William County Assessments DB.

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