Gen Z is Fleeing California and New York and Going to These States for Affordable Housing

By: Lauren | Published: Jan 16, 2024

When it comes to domestic migration, Gen Z might be the most mobile generation in decades. But while Millennials moved to the big city to make a life for themselves, Gen Z is taking a different approach.

These are the states Gen Z are moving to for a better life, which includes affordable housing, lower cost of living, and less taxes.

Millennials Paved the Way

After graduating from college, many Millennials moved to big US metropolises like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

The Bean in downtown Chicago, Illinois

Source: Freepik

Of course, city life is appealing for many reasons, but most of these young go-getters weren’t just looking for excitement; they were also looking for a well-paying job, which could often be found in the city.


The Pandemic Changed Everything

But then, when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country and the world, thousands of companies went remote and allowed their employees to work from home, which drastically changed the corporate world in America.

Woman working from home on her carpet with her dog

Source: Freepik

Then, it seemed impractical and unnecessary to live in a big city and pay a fortune in rent for a tiny apartment. And even though many companies have returned to the office at least part-time, several have retained the option for employees to work from anywhere.

Gen Zers Are Taking Advantage of the New Normal

With the ability to only head into the office every so often, many Gen Zers who recently graduated from college have decided to avoid the large metropolises and instead head to states that offer a completely different life.

Young couple fills out paperwork while packing

Source: Freepik

They are moving to those states that offer a lower cost of living overall, less taxes on property and income, and those that offer houses they can actually afford to buy.

Gen Zers Are Looking for the Simple Life

And according to research, it’s not just affordability that’s encouraging this change in migration. Emilia Mann, senior analyst at StorageCafe, explained in an interview, “Gen Zers are increasingly drawn to simpler living in their housing choices.”

Young family with a toddler in a kitchen

Source: Freepik

And StorageCafe even created an in-detail report that explained exactly where these young professionals are moving, and it is quite surprising.

16% of South Dakota’s Newest Residents Are Aged 18-23

The study found that 20,703 Americans aged 18 to 23 moved to the state of South Dakota in 2021, which was 16% of all new residents that year.

Cabin in the woods in South Dakota

Source: Freepik

This is less surprising when you learn that the average rent throughout the state is only $1,096, and the home value is $213,472. And, of course, the gorgeous state is stunning, quiet, and full of outdoor adventures.


North Dakota Is Also Experiencing Thousands of New Gen Z Residents

Next on the list is South Dakota’s neighbor, North Dakota. The StorageCafe report stated that 15% of all new residents of the state were between the ages of 18 and 23 in 2021.

View over the landscape of North Dakota as the sun sets

Source: iStock

And experts believe that this number will continue to grow over the next few years as more and more young people realize just how affordable and beautiful the state is.


Idaho Is Also Growing Every Year

Idaho saw more migration than almost any other state in the country in 2021 and 2022. In fact, they essentially had 25 new residents for every 1,000 existing, which is five times more new residents than Texas had.

Suburban street lined with trees, Idaho

Source: Facebook

And of all these new Idaho citizens, 15% of them were under 23 years old! Making it the third most popular state for Gen Zers.


Kansas & Iowa Take Fourth and Fifth Place

It’s important to note that while some Gen Zers are searching for that little cabin in the woods, some are still interested in urban living but in a less expensive and overwhelming city.

Kansas City skyline at dusk

Source: KAYAK

The study explained that 14% of all new residents in Kansas and Iowa were aged 18 to 23, but some of these young professionals opted for the smaller but still bustling cities of Des Moines and Kansas City.


Utah, Wyoming, Montana, & Indiana Round Out the Top 10

Finally, 13% of all new residents in Utah, Montana, Indiana, and Wyoming in 2021 were Gen Zers, rounding out the top 10 states for the next generation of young adults.

Mountains of Montana

Source: Britannica

It seems the younger generation loves the natural beauty, vast mountains, prairie lands, and simple life that these states offer their residents.


Gen Z Considers Moving “Relatively Normal”

Overall, no matter which state they choose, it seems that Gen Zers are on the move. They’re not afraid to move states or even head across the country to the unknown to find the life they’re looking for.

Car on a dirt road with a woman’s feet out the window

Source: Freepik

Sean Kyons, a business professor at the University of Guelph, explained, “Millennials really normalized the trend of career mobility and relocation. For Gen Z, relocating might be viewed as relatively normal.”


The Urban Boom is Over, For Now

It’s important to note that the Gen Z migration away from cities and toward simple life in various other states will undoubtedly affect the landscape of the country’s cities, such as San Francisco and New York.

A person walks by a boarded up storefronts on June 11, 2020 in San Francisco, California

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What will happen next to these urban areas is anyone’s guess, but it may be some time before they get back to their former glory and appeal to the masses again.