Moving Truck in San Francisco

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Big cities' ability to offer top-notch jobs may have attracted generations past to put down roots in large metropolises, but work is no longer the only factor in deciding where to live.

The pandemic-inspired trend of people moving to lower-density areas to retire and be closer to family, as well as pursue new careers, continued in 2022, according to a United Van Lines study. And rising costs are now a factor too.

"Americans are now moving from bigger to smaller cities, mostly in the South, some in the West, but even an increase of migration to the Northeast, which has not been typical," said Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor of public policy at UCLA.

The survey echoes Census Bureau data that found, though local moves are at their lowest rate since 1947, longer-distance moves have picked up slightly, which could signal greater population shifts.

Still, two large demographic groups are bucking the trend to flee urban jungles. Generation Z (those born from 1997 to 2013) and younger millennials (1981-96) continued to move to big cities like Washington and Portland, Oregon.

But even as people moved for work (or to retire from it), inflation has also inspired many to seek cheaper destinations — but not without consequences for longtime locals when the less-expensive location becomes trendy and more expensive.

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"For the last several years, Idaho was a top destination, as Americans migrated from Northern California, Washington and even Oregon due to a similar lifestyle in the state," United Van Lines spokesperson Eily Cummings said in a news release. 

"With an influx of new residents, housing prices and other living costs start to increase over time, and these popular destinations become hot spots for inflation," she said. "As a result, the study underscored that Americans are moving from expensive cities to lower-density, more affordable regions."

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