States That Generation Xers Are Leaving — and Where They Are Moving Fastest

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Evgeny Atamanenko /

Generation X, which consists of Americans from about age 36 to 51, makes up about one-fifth of the U.S. population. Gen Xers are wedged between the baby boomers, the population bulge that followed World War II, and the millennials, who were born roughly between 1981 and 2000.

Using U.S. Census Bureau population data, Governing the States and Localities has tracked Gen X population increases and declines across the country. Often Gen Xers go where economic opportunity lies. Given their ages, they may also be responding to the needs of growing families and school-aged children.

Here is a ranking of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of Gen X movement starting with the areas of slowest growth — indeed negative growth — and ending with the places where this generation has been migrating the fastest. The study period was from 2010 through 2016.

51. Illinois: -4.2 percent

Chicago skyline
Dream Master /

This Midwestern state saw the largest shrinkage of its Generation X population between 2010 and 2016 — a 4.2 percent decline. Illinois is one of the region’s weakest economic links, according to an economic report prepared for the state government in January. This is the result of slow job creation and the state government’s fiscal problems. The report cited weakness in the manufacturing sector, which has contributed to unemployment.

50. New Mexico: -4.1 percent

New Mexico
turtix /

The Generation X population in New Mexico declined by 4.1 percent during the study period. Some people may have left because of the state’s slow economy, which still is recovering from the Great Recession. In August, the Associated Press reported that state finances were hit hard over the previous two years by a drop in state revenue from the oil and natural gas sectors. New Mexico also is struggling to cope with a high unemployment rate.

49. The District of Columbia: -3.5 percent

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The Generation X population in the nation’s capital dropped 3.5 percent during the study period. For this age group, it could be that cost of living becomes an issue as they become parents with young families. The district ranks second after the state of Hawaii for its cost-of-living expense, according to USA Today.

48. Mississippi: -2.6 percent

Jackson, Mississippi
Sean Pavone /

The Generation X population declined 2.6 percent in Mississippi from 2010 through 2016.

47. New York: -2.6 percent

New York and the Statue of Liberty

The state of New York saw a 2.6 percent decrease in the Generation X population during the study period. That may reflect ongoing unemployment problems. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 4.7 percent to 4.8 percent in August, according to the State Department of Labor. That compares with a national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, as reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures. It may also be that the state’s cost of living becomes to burdensome as people are raising kids. New York state is the third most expensive place to live in the country, after Hawaii and Washington, D.C., according to the USA Today report.

46. Kansas: -2.6 percent

Kansas Capitol
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The Kansas population of Gen Xers declined by 2.6 percent from 2010 through 2016.

45. West Virginia: -1.9 percent

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
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Generation X’s ranks in West Virginia shrank by 1.9 percent during the study period. The overall population of the state has also declined, and its economy is in tough shape as its key industry, coal mining, flounders, as this CNBC report details.

44. Ohio: -1.6 percent

Rudy Balasko /

The number of Gen Xers who call Ohio home dropped by 1.6 percent from 2010 through 2016. Ohio’s economy has grown more slowly than the nation as a whole since the Great Recession. Its struggle has paralleled that of other Midwestern states that rely heavily on manufacturing. noted that manufacturing has been in decline in Ohio for decades. And new companies are not moving in, it reports:

Ohio as a whole isn’t a hot state to move to right now, so it’s not a hot place for entrepreneurs to locate companies that have high-paying service jobs, from tech companies to human resources. People used to move where the jobs are, said economist Tom Jackson with IHS Markit. Now, companies locate where the people are.

43. Michigan: -1.5 percent

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Michigan’s Generation X population declined by 1.5 percent during the study period.

42. Wisconsin: -1.5 percent

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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There was a 1.5 percent drop in Wisconsin’s Gen X population, even as the overall state population grew slightly.

41. Missouri: -1.5 percent

Gateway Arch, St. Louis. /

The Gen X population in Missouri dropped 1.5 percent during the study period. The average annual income of residents in 2016 was $43,723, compared with a national figure of $49,571, according to the 2017 Missouri Economic Report. The pace of income growth in Missouri has lagged behind the nation as a whole.

40. Alaska: -1.4 percent

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Generation X isn’t heeding the call of the wild when it comes to Alaska. The demographic group’s population dropped by 1.4 percent during the study period. In January, a state economic trends report noted that job losses in oil, construction and the public sector have been so serious that they have triggered job losses in professional services, transportation, leisure and hospitality. In August, Alaska had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.

39. Kentucky: -1.4 percent

Louisville, Kentucky
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Kentucky lost 1.4 percent of its Gen X population during a period when the state’s overall population increased.

38. Rhode Island: -1.3 percent

Newport, Rhode Island
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Rhode Island saw its Generation X population decrease by 1.3 percent during the study period.

37. Indiana: -1.2 percent

Indianapolis, Indiana
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The Generation X population declined by 1.2 percent in Indiana from 2010 through 2016.

36. Connecticut: -0.9 percent

Hartford, Connecticut
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In Connecticut, the ranks of Generation X fell by slightly less than 1 percent during the study period.

35. Louisiana: -0.9 percent

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Louisiana’s Gen X population dropped by 0.9 percent between 2010 and 2016. The state’s economy was in recession until earlier this year, the USA Today Network reported in August. Things have improved, but economic gains have been modest. The U.S. Commerce Department reported a 1 percent economic growth for Louisiana in the first quarter of this year. According to a September report in The Hayride, incomes dropped by 2.1 percent in 2016, making it one of four states where wages did not rise.

34. Vermont: -0.8 percent

Burlington, Vermont
Sean Pavone /

Vermont saw no gain in Gen Xers during the study period. The demographic group’s population declined by 0.8 percent.

33. Arkansas: -0.8 percent

Little Rock, Arkansas skyline
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Arkansas’ Generation X population declined by 0.8 percent from 2010 through 2016.

32. Alabama: -0.7 percent

Mobile, Alabama
Sean Pavone /

From 2010 through 2016, Alabama’s Generation X community shrank by 0.7 percent, at a time when the state’s overall population increased.

31. Wyoming: -0.7 percent

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Wyoming saw the number of Generation X residents decline by 0.7 percent from 2010 through 2016.

30. Minnesota: -0.7 percent

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Although Minnesota lost 0.7 percent of its Gen Xers during the seven-year study period, things could change, based on the state’s economic outlook. Labor market conditions are strong, bankruptcies are down, and new business filings are increasing in most communities, according to a July report by the Star Tribune. Major industries include bioscience, health care, manufacturing and finance.

29. Pennsylvania: -0.6 percent

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Pennsylvania, which is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, saw a modest loss of 0.6 percent of its Generation X population from 2010 through 2016.

28. California: -0.5 percent

Los Angeles
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Despite its strong economy, California lost 0.5 percent of its Gen Xers during the study period. Over the last five years, the state has economically outperformed the nation as a whole, The New York Times reports. California accounted for 17 percent of job growth in the U.S. from 2012 to 2016, and a quarter of the growth in gross domestic product. Even so, Generation X is not flocking to the Golden State.

27. New Jersey: -0.4 percent

Jersey City, New Jersey
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New Jersey lost a modest 0.4 percent of its Generation X population during the study period.

26. Nebraska: -0.3 percent

Steve O’Donnell /

Nebraska saw its Generation X community decline by 0.3 percent during the study period.

25. Iowa: 0.1 percent

Des Moines, Iowa
Nagel Photography /

Iowa had a net gain of members of Generation X, albeit a slight one. This segment of the population increased by 0.1 percent from 2010 to 2016.

24. Oklahoma: 0.2 percent

Oklahoma City
Henryk Sadura /

Oklahoma increased its Generation X ranks by 0.2 percent from 2010 through 2016.

23. New Hampshire: 0.4 percent

Manchester, New Hampshire
Sean Pavone /

New Hampshire’s Generation X community grew by 0.4 percent. That may be because the economy is on the upswing and the state has become a magnet for job seekers. New Hampshire Public Radio reported in September that that median household income is reaching record levels and unemployment is low. The unemployment rate has been below 3 percent for 20 consecutive months. That’s considered “full employment,” meaning that everyone who wants a job generally can find one.

22. Massachusetts: 0.5 percent

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The number of Gen Xers in Massachusetts grew by 0.5 percent during the study period.

21. Maine: 0.5 percent

Portland, Maine
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Enough people in their mid-to-late 30s and 40s were drawn to Maine to increase the Gen X population there by 0.5 percent.

20. Hawaii: 0.8 percent

Honolulu, Hawaii
Filip Carmen /

Hawaii’s Generation X community grew by 0.8 percent between 2010 and 2016. Apparently the advantages of the Aloha State still outweigh its biggest disadvantage — the high cost of living — for people in this age group.

19. Utah: 0.8 percent

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Utah’s Gen X population expanded by 0.8 percent from 2010 through 2016. No wonder: The economy has also been growing. In its 2017 economic forecast, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute said every major industrial sector grew in 2016, creating a total of 49,500 new jobs. An annual employment growth rate of 3.6 percent was among the strongest in the U.S. The state’s construction sector experienced the greatest job growth in 2016.

18. Georgia: 0.8 percent

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The Gen X population in Georgia rose 0.8 percent from 2010 through 2016.

17. Maryland: 1 percent

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Maryland’s Generation X community grew by 1 percent from 2010 through 2016. One reason is likely the comparatively high cost of living and buying a home in neighboring Washington, D.C. According to the Washington Post, many people who work in the nation’s capital ultimately move to Maryland or Virginia for cheaper housing.

16. Tennessee: 1 percent

Memphis, Tennessee
Steven Frame /

Tennessee experienced a 1 percent growth of residents who belong to Gen X during the study period.

15. Delaware: 1.3 percent

Downtown Wilmington, Delaware
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Delaware’s Generation X population increased by 1.3 percent from 2010 to 2016. This growth happened despite ongoing employment problems in the state. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in August increased to 4.9 percent from 4.8 percent in July, according to a report by Delaware Business Now. The State Department of Labor reported 23,500 unemployed residents in August 2017 compared with 20,500 in August 2016.

14. South Dakota: 1.4 percent

Rapid City, South Dakota
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From 2010 to 2016, the Gen X population of South Dakota grew by 1.4 percent.

13. Arizona: 1.6 percent

Downtown Phoenix Arizona
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The Gen X community in Arizona expanded by 1.6 percent from 2010 to 2016.

12. Virginia: 1.6 percent

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Virginia saw a 1.6 percent increase in the number of Generation X residents during the study period.

11. Nevada: 1.9 percent

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Nevada had a Gen X population increase of 1.9 percent from 2010 through 2016. Many of the state’s employers are located in the sprawling Las Vegas metro area, home to the bulk of the state’s residents. The Las Vegas Review-Journal in May reported that 212,300 jobs had been created since the recession, a recovery from the 185,700 jobs that were lost. Nevada reportedly has the fourth-fastest private sector job growth in the country.

10. Idaho: 2.4 percent

Boise, Idaho
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The Gen X population in Idaho grew by 2.4 percent from 2010 through 2016.

9. North Carolina: 2.6 percent

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From 2010 through 2016, Idaho’s Gen X residents increased in number by 2.6 percent.

8. Washington: 2.6 percent

Albert Pegp /

The Gen X ranks in the state of Washington grew by 2.6 percent during the seven-year study period.

7. Oregon: 2.8 percent

Portland skyline
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The number of Gen Xers in Oregon grew by 2.8 percent from 2010 through 2016.

6. Montana: 3 percent

Missoula, Montana
Jon Bilous /

In Montana, the Generation X demographic increased in size by 3 percent during the study period.

5. Colorado: 3.4 percent

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Colorado had a 3.4 percent increase in Generation X residents from 2010 through 2016. Its strong economy may be the reason. The pace of job growth ranked eighth nationally in September 2016, according to a report by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. After growing by 3.1 percent in 2015, the pace of job growth slowed in 2016, with the state adding 54,900 jobs, for a 2.2 percent growth.

4. South Carolina: 3.7 percent

Charleston, South Carolina
Sean Pavone /

The number of South Carolina residents who are part of Generation X grew by 3.7 percent during the study period.

3. Texas: 4.1 percent

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Texas had a 4.1 percent increase in the number of its Gen X residents during the study period.

2. Florida: 7.6 percent

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Image Not Available

The Gen X population in Florida rose by 7.6 percent from 2010 through 2016. That is in line with the Sunshine State’s rapid overall population growth.

1. North Dakota: 7.7 percent

North Dakota Capitol
Ace Diamond /

The state that had the biggest increase of Generation X residents during the study period was North Dakota. The Gen X population there rose by 7.7 percent from 2010 through 2016. U.S. News & World Report said in March that it had given North Dakota a No. 2 ranking among the 50 states for its overall economic performance. From 2011 to 2015, more than 80,000 jobs were created in the state. Oil and gas production is the state’s main economic driver, but there are good reasons to live in North Dakota besides the strong economy. In a July report, CNBC praised the state’s high quality of life. It noted that that there is great air quality, a low crime rate and one of the lowest rates for drug-related deaths in the nation.

Are you eyeing a move to another state? What would motivate you to move? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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