Since 1977, United Van Lines, a global transportation, warehousing and freight corporation been tracking migration patterns on a state-by-state basis. A study released from 2016 concluded that Vermont is experiencing more inbound moves than outbound, and that has been the case for nearly three years running.
“For nearly 40 years, we’ve been tracking which states people are moving to and from, and we’ve recently started surveying our customers to understand why they are making these moves across state lines. For Vermont, a higher percentage are moving into the state rather than leaving,” said Melissa Sullivan, director of marketing and communications at United.
United Van Lines is the nation’s largest household goods mover, the company’s data reflect national migration trends.
“The study is conducted off of 240,000 moves throughout the U.S. and is based on proprietary data,” said Jason Zimelman, outreach coordinator at United Van Lines.
The Northeast however, continues to experience a moving deficit, with Vermont an exception to this trend at 62 percent inbound — based on one-way rentals.
“Retirement was the big push this year across the board. Vermont however, is an outlier and the trends I’ve seen are specific to both the family and retirement lifestyle; It’s quiet, quaint and offers affordable housing,” Zimelman said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the highest number of moves is related to housing: to purchase a new home or purchasing a cheaper home.
“This study conducted by United Van Lines is determined by relative inbound to outbound moves — how many more people are coming into the state, rather than outbound,” said Michael Stoll, an economist, professor and chairman of the Department of Public Policy and Urban Panning at UCLA. “This study measures the relative attractiveness of the state; rather than the absolute number. The total number of moves in and out of Vermont is relatively small in comparison to large states — Vermont is a very small state.”
In official reports within the business community, the buzz behind Vermont’s “brain drain” theory is still a reality and not rhetoric. This theory refers to states that lose the most college students within a year after graduation, fleeing the state in search of careers in big-city states. In addition, the theory pinpoints the demographic shift that has been taking place over the past few decades. Others have coined this shift as “youth flight” or “the gray wave.”
While big cities put states on the map, there’s evidence that smaller, even rural states are drawing people in — a trend that seems to be increasing here in Vermont, with a “gray wave” entering the state.
Vermont is home to approximately 626,000 people — the second smallest population among the 50 states, according to suburbanstats.org’s 2016-2017 report.
Approximately 234,000 (37.3 percent) of the state’s population is over age 50, and more than 132,000 people (21.1 percent) are older than 60, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics for the years 2010-16.
“The draw to Vermont is not employment opportunity. Vermont is a very different state in comparison to other factors that draw people to other states. Vermont has a certain cache some people are seeking. It is a low density state with quaint, town living and endless terrain for outdoor activities,” Stoll said.
The proportion of Vermont’s population 60 and older is growing more rapidly than other components of the population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 29 percent of Vermont’s population will be 60 and older by the year 2030.
“It is tough to determine just how many people of retirement age are actually full-time residents here in Vermont. There are several affluent people who are purchasing either their second, or their third home here. And, we are still seeing a large net flow out of Vermont, with people moving to either the west or the south,” said Ken Jones, an economic research analyst with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Jones explained that the “brain drain” phenomenon is more easily calculated than the “gray wave,” due to projections on population change within Vermont universities.
“The inflow of university students is unique to Vermont. Vermont’s inflow of college students is the highest proportion in the nation. Which, in turn, upon graduation, several leave to return home. What is not unique to Vermont is the “brain drain” — rural areas always lose educated people between the ages of 23 and 30,” Jones said. “However, for decades we’ve seen the age group of 30 to 40 flow back into Vermont out of a natural tendency to settle down and begin a family.”