South, West popular in coming-and-going study

ST. LOUIS — If migration trends tracked by the nation's largest moving company are any indication, people are moving to the South and West and away from parts of the Northeast and Midwest.

But the study by United Van Lines also indicates some recent trends may be slowly changing.

United Van Lines has been tracking moving trends since 1977. Its study released to The Associated Press on Wednesday looked at all moves that involved either going to or leaving a state or the District of Columbia.

For 2011, United tracked 113,916 interstate moves from Jan. 1 through Dec. 9. For the fourth year in a row, Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of inbound moves, 62.2 percent.

Other top inbound states were in the South — North Carolina (60.6 percent of moves were inbound), Arkansas (55.4 percent), South Carolina and Texas (both 55 percent) — and in the West — Oregon (60.6 percent) and Nevada (55.6 percent).

Not all southern states were proving to be destinations. Kentucky had a high percentage of outbound moves in 2011 at 55.7 percent, while West Virginia outpaced it at 56.2 percent.

Also, the trend of migration to the West seems to be slowing because several states with high inbound numbers over the past decade are now relatively stable, said Carl Walter, vice president of United Van Lines.

Illinois and New Jersey tied for the largest outbound migration, with 60.5 percent of moves heading out of those states.

The study looks only at numbers of moves and does not seek to determine why people are moving to or away from any particular states, Walter said.

Several states in the Northeast saw more people moving out than in — New York (58.1 percent), New Hampshire (56.7 percent), Rhode Island (56.5 percent), Connecticut (55.2 percent) and Maine (55.1 percent) were all among the top 10 for outbound moves. Michigan (58.1 percent) was fourth for outbound moves after being third last year and first each year from 2006 through '09.

"For more than 10 years, states bordering Lake Michigan have experienced outbound migration in large numbers ... (but) migration out of the region has slowed considerably," Walter said.