the Impact of Rising Cost of Living on US Migration Trends

Are you curious about how the rising cost of living is affecting where people live in the US? In this blog post, we’ll explore recent migration trends and examine how they are being impacted by the cost of living. We’ll look at data from cities across the country to gain insight into where people are moving and why.


Migration has long been an integral part of the American experience, but the cost of living, taxes, and housing affordability have had a significant impact on migration patterns in recent years. This blog explores how the pandemic has intensified existing migration trends, examining the role of taxes, housing affordability, and other factors such as the growth of remote work in influencing migration. Additionally, it will explore how climate change has become a key driver of migration. The blog will conclude with a case study on California and Texas to illustrate the impact of these factors on migration patterns in the US.

Overview of US Migration Trends Prior to the Pandemic

Before the onset of the pandemic, US migration patterns had already been shifting in a variety of ways. According to the latest figures from the US Census Bureau, 8.2% of people had lived in a different residence a year earlier in 2019, a slight decline from the 9.2% recorded in 2018. This trend was particularly prominent in fast-growing metropolitan areas where continued shortages of housing and high house price-to-income ratios were increasingly driving out-migration. Moreover, taxes also played an important role in migration patterns, with states such as Texas and Florida becoming increasingly popular due to their low tax rates and the fact that they do not levy income taxes. Furthermore, there was also evidence of rising levels of remote work contributing to a decrease in urbanization as more people opted to move away from cities with high living costs and relocate to smaller towns with lower costs of living.

How the Pandemic Intensified Existing Migration Patterns

The pandemic has exacerbated existing migration patterns, particularly in the US. Analysis of Freddie Mac LPA data shows that homebuyer migration patterns are in pursuit of affordable housing, a trend that was accelerated by the pandemic. Furthermore, the US migration rate declined from 9.2% in 2019-20 to 8.4% in 2020-21, indicating a shift in overall migration patterns. In addition, the growth of the remote workforce has had an impact on migration, as individuals are more likely to move to different cities or states for work if they can do it from home. Finally, climate change is playing an increasingly important role in influencing migration trends, with more people choosing to move to places with more favorable climates as temperatures continue to rise.

Exploring the Impact of Taxes on Migration

Taxes have a significant impact on migration trends in the US. Research has found that states with lower taxes and sound tax structures generally experience stronger inbound migration than states with higher taxes and more complex tax structures. A public finance fellow found that lower state income taxation is associated with higher net taxpayer migration. Studies also indicate that taxes play an important role in interstate migration, as evidenced by a study that used annual IRS migration data from 1992 to 2008 which found a correlation between taxes and interstate movement. Furthermore, research has investigated the effects of immigration on GDP per capita and aggregate labor productivity of advanced economies, finding that taxes can influence the decision of immigrants to enter or remain in a certain country. Thus, it is clear that taxes can have a considerable impact on US migration trends.

Impact of Housing Affordability on Migration
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Impact of Housing Affordability on Migration

The lack of housing affordability has been a major factor driving migration in the US. As housing costs have increased, many Americans have been forced to move to more affordable areas in order to make ends meet. This has contributed to out-migration from high-cost states such as California, as well as an influx of people into areas that are more affordable. Collectively, immigrants have added $3.7 trillion to U.S. housing wealth, helping stabilize communities and providing more affordable housing options for those who may not be able to afford market-rate housing prices. This influx of people has also helped create a more diverse range of housing products that cater to different income levels and needs, further increasing the availability of affordable housing options for individuals and households.

Case Study: California vs. Texas

A closer look at California and Texas reveals how different state and local tax policies can drive migration. California’s state and local governments generate and spend 60 percent more per resident than Texas, a state with a lower cost of living. This has resulted in an influx of new residents to Texas, especially in its four major metropolitan areas. A study by the Texas Real Estate Research Center found that rising home costs and changing migration patterns were linked to this shift. It showed that while taxes are a driving factor in migration, the availability of affordable housing plays an even larger role. The growth of the remote workforce has also been a contributing factor, as it allows people to work anywhere with an internet connection. Finally, climate change is becoming a more significant factor in migration decisions, as people look for better quality of life choices when considering where to move.

Growth of the Remote Workforce and its Impact on Migration

The growth of the remote workforce has been one of the defining trends of the post-pandemic era, with many companies embracing remote work as a way to save money and increase productivity. As a result, many American workers have taken advantage of the newfound flexibility to move to lower cost-of-living areas across the country. Census data from May 2022 showed that over 14 million Americans planned to relocate due in part to remote work. A NBER working paper noted that US home prices increased by 23.8%, the highest rate on record, as remote work fueled migration. This dramatic shift in geographic mobility shows how the growth of the remote workforce has had an immense impact on US migration patterns, leading to a significant increase in relocation across the country.

The Role of Climate Change in Migration Patterns

The role of climate change in migration patterns has been a topic of growing concern in recent years. Forced migration due to resource scarcity, extreme weather events, and other climate-related factors are increasingly impacting the decisions of individuals and families around the world. In developing countries, the effects of climate change on migration are particularly pronounced, as people move away from regions that have become uninhabitable due to changes in temperature or precipitation. Research has shown that climate-induced migration can have significant economic and social costs, particularly when it occurs within countries. As a result, governments and international organizations are actively exploring ways to address the impacts of climate-induced migration on both the sending and receiving countries.


In conclusion, the rising cost of living has been a major factor influencing US migration trends in recent years. The pandemic has intensified existing migration patterns and caused some individuals to move away from high-cost areas to more affordable areas. Taxes have also had an impact on migration patterns, as have housing affordability and the growth of the remote workforce. Finally, climate change is likely to be a key driver of migration in the future. Many people are already moving away from areas prone to natural disasters and other climate-related events as they seek a more stable environment. By understanding the forces driving US migration trends, policymakers and individuals can better prepare for future shifts in population.