New Yorkers frequently cite the city’s high cost of living as a reason for leaving — but most who move away end up in pricey nearby suburbs or other large, expensive cities.
Switching homes is almost a habit for New Yorkers: One in three city residents recently surveyed by StreetEasy said they planned to move in the next year. According to the U.S. Census, more than 900,000 of the city’s 8.4 million residents find a new home annually.
And while more than half move within their borough, more than 400,000 move to another county, almost 300,000 move to suburbs in the greater NYC area, and almost 200,000 move to another state. Most of the New Yorkers we surveyed said that their primary motivation in moving was to buy a home, or live in one with more space, and cited the high cost of living in New York as a top reason for leaving.
Yet Census data shows that even when they leave, New Yorkers gravitate to the wealthiest, most expensive counties across the country — usually to suburbs in New York or New Jersey. When they are not heading to nearby suburbs, New Yorkers often move to the most expensive big cities in high-tax states, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Some 78 percent of departing New Yorkers move to counties where housing costs are above the 90th percentile relative to the rest of the country, and 90 percent of New Yorkers move to counties within the top quintile of housing costs across the country. Of New Yorkers who leave, most choose to live among others with higher incomes. Some 65 percent land in counties within the top 20 percent of incomes across the country.
Different Boroughs Leave for Different Places
Manhattan is home to the biggest group of movers in NYC — more than 15 percent of Manhattanites change residences each year, and almost 5 percent leave New York City, compared to 11 percent of New Yorkers who change residences and 3 percent who move out of the city. Of Manhattanites who leave, 1 in 5 move to the largest and most expensive regions around the country, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington D.C., compared to 1 in 10 New Yorkers overall. In fact, more Manhattanites move to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Cook counties each year than to nearby Fairfield, Bergen, and Nassau counties.
Manhattanites who leave the state tend to move to cities in states with high sales and income taxes. At 7.25 and 6.25 percent, respectively, California and Illinois have some of the highest sales taxes in the nation. California also has the highest marginal income tax rate in the country, at 13.3 percent, compared to the already-high 8.82 percent in New York. Nor, of course, is housing in these cities cheap. San Francisco is the most expensive county in the country for housing, and Los Angeles and Cook counties are both above the 90th percentile nationally.
In contrast, residents of the Bronx and Staten Island tend not to leave their respective boroughs, and stay in East Coast suburbs when they do. Queens residents who leave the Tri-State region usually move to Florida, Texas, and Arizona — states with no or low income taxes. Of all New Yorkers’ moving patterns, those of Brooklynites vary the most: Many decamp to nearby suburbs or to Florida, though the biggest proportion move to Los Angeles, and many also head to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco.
Going to Stay in L.A.
Los Angeles County is the most popular destination for New Yorkers who are not moving to nearby suburbs in New York and New Jersey. Looking at moving patterns by borough, Los Angeles County is the number one destination for Brooklyn residents leaving the city and the third-most popular destination for migrating Manhattanites after Westchester and Hudson counties. More Queens residents migrate to the equally warm Palm Beach, but Los Angeles still ranks among the top ten most popular destinations for those leaving the borough.
With its warm climate, vast natural landscapes, declining gas prices, and booming arts scenes, it’s not surprising that Los Angeles appeals to New Yorkers. More than many other cities, it offers the chance to work in high-status jobs in media, entertainment, consulting, and tech, while living in more spacious (often single-family) homes with yards — and while escaping Eastern winters.
Local Suburbs Are High-End, Too
Among New Yorkers who leave the city, 14 percent move to Nassau, Westchester, and Suffolk Counties, making them the most popular destinations for New Yorkers within the state. These are some of the wealthiest and most expensive counties in the United States, with both median household incomes and monthly housing costs near or above the 99th percentile.
When New Yorkers move to nearby suburbs out of state, they also choose expensive places. Hudson, Bergen, and Essex Counties in New Jersey, and Fairfield County in Connecticut, are the most popular destinations in this category, attracting 9 percent of New Yorkers who leave the city. Hudson County, which includes Jersey City and Hoboken, is close enough to provide access to all that New York City offers, while offering home prices in the 97th percentile nationally, rather than the 99th. Essex County, which includes Newark, falls within the 96th percentile of housing costs. Bergen and Fairfield County both fall within the 99th percentile of housing costs and the 98th percentile of income, tying with Manhattan as the most expensive and wealthiest counties in the country.
Overall, 43 percent of New Yorkers who leave the city will migrate within the Tri-State region of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. More than half of Queens, Bronx and Staten Island residents move to the Tri-State region, while only 36 percent of Brooklynites and 39 percent of Manhattanites do so.
Heading South to Save Green
More than 13 percent of migrating New Yorkers head to Florida and Texas, especially cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Houston. But even these places aren’t all that cheap.
Median monthly housing costs in Florida and Texas are only marginally lower than those in New York City, but of course Florida and Texas residents get bigger homes, yards, and warmer weather for their money. Median housing costs in Texas and Florida fall between the 89th and 95th percentile around the country. Those in New York City run from the 92nd to the 99th percentile. But what makes Texas and Florida appealing, in addition to their weather, is their lack of state income taxes. Texas offers an additional incentive for retirees by offering property tax exemptions for homeowners age 65 or older.
Among residents of the five boroughs, Manhattanites are the least likely to move to a state where they’ll save on taxes. Of Manhattanites who leave, 12 percent move to the no-income-tax states of Alaska, Nevada, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. In contrast, 16 percent of Queens residents, 15 percent of Brooklyn and Bronx residents, and 14 percent of Staten Islanders move to these states. Clearly, Manhattanites and many Brooklynites are more attracted to urban living, bigger cities with wealthy residents, and greater job opportunities, while many outer borough residents seek more space in the suburbs, relatively lower housing costs in high-income areas, and the absence of state income taxes.
We used the 2011-2015 ACS Census data on County-to-County Migration Outflows to calculate the aggregate out-migration from New York City as the sum of migrants whose county of residence one year ago was New York County, Kings County, Bronx County, Queens County, or Richmond County, and who currently live in a different county. We calculate housing cost and income percentiles by ranking Census data on median monthly housing costs and median household income across all counties in the United States.
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