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US Mobility: Which Cities are Americans Moving To?

Sept. 15, 2013
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In 2012, 12 percent of Americans moved homes.   When we looked at the data on Americans making big moves—moving to a new area from outside of the state—it is clear that there are hotspots that attract job seekers.  The New York, DC and Chicago metro areas top the list.  The New York City metro area attracted roughly a quarter million people from outside of the state in 2012.

Founded by immigrants, the United States has retained its culture of mobility.  Have you moved?  Share what you miss about your former city on Chattr, NerdWallet’s new interactive tool for sharing and exploring local knowledge on cities.

Top Metro Areas That Americans Are Moving To

1.    New York-North New Jersey-Long Island, NY

The New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metro area has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent as of June 2013.  The Big Apple has every kind of industry as well as great public transportation, making it easy for residents to live outside of Manhattan and commute into the city.  The New York area is known for its culture and diversity.

2.    Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC

The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area has a low unemployment rate of just 6 percent.  As the center of American politics, DC attracts politically active workers, but the city also has plenty of jobs in STEM, education (Georgetown University and George Washington University are located in the city) and healthcare.

3.    Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL

With its extensive public transportation network and moderate cost of living, the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metro area attracts plenty of job seekers exploring the city’s large finance, alternative energy, education and publishing industries.  Chicago is known for its harsh weather, die-hard sports fans, great food and distinctive architecture.

4.    Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ

One of the best cities for small business, the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale metro area has an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.  The area has jobs in government, education (Arizona State University is in the metropolitan area), tourism and tech.  The area’s low cost of living attracts movers as well.

5.    Atlanta-Marietta-Sandy Springs, GA

The home of Coca-Cola, Atlanta has sizable finance, healthcare and manufacturing industries.  Georgia Tech University is located in the city, and the university is contributing to the growth of tech companies in Atlanta.  The Atlanta-Marietta-Sandy Springs metro area has an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent.

6.    Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

Los Angeles is known for its thriving entertainment and fashion industries, but the area also has plenty to offer in the manufacturing, finance and tech industries.  The area’s unemployment rate is 9.2 percent.

7.    Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA

The Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metro area boasts a moderate cost of living, moderate unemployment rate of 8.4 percent and jobs in Philadelphia’s booming healthcare industry.  Culturally, Philadelphia is known for its sports fans and down to earth attitude.

8.    Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

With a low cost of living and low unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area attracts plenty of movers.  Dallas, known as the “Silicon Prairie,” contains plenty of tech companies, and the nearby Telecom Corridor is a hub for telecommunications manufacturing.  Fort Worth is home to American Airlines and many manufacturing companies.

9.    Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA

The Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metro area is known for its many exceptional universities, educated population and clam chowder.  Boston’s top industries include research, healthcare and finance.  The area’s unemployment rate is only 6.8%.

10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area has plenty to offer.  Biotechnology, healthcare and clean technology are a few of the top industries in this area.  The home of Microsoft, Seattle is a tech hub as well. The metro area has a low unemployment rate of only 5.9 percent.  Seattle is known for its outdoorsy residents and laid-back culture.


Rank Metro area Moved from out of state
1 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area 263,030
2 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area 229,856
3 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI Metro Area 176,775
4 Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ Metro Area 146,458
5 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA Metro Area 140,852
6 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA Metro Area 125,767
7 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area 125,314
8 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area 121,111
9 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Metro Area 107,613
10 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area 105,669
11 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX Metro Area 101,200
12 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area 95,765
13 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO Metro Area 83,367
14 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metro Area 81,997
15 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV Metro Area 80,759
16 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area 80,589
17 Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area 71,472
18 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metro Area 69,251
19 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA Metro Area 68,283
20 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area 66,292
21 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA Metro Area 58,460
22 Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC Metro Area 57,863
23 Baltimore-Towson, MD Metro Area 57,410
24 Colorado Springs, CO Metro Area 50,296
25 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX Metro Area 50,175

521 metro areas were included in this analysis of 2011 Census data