Retirees Leave Sunny States for Colder Locales

October 13, 2016

Retirees’ love for Sun Belt states may be waning. A new analysis of Census data shows that retirees are leaving states like Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona and are returning to the colder states where they originally came from.

Between 2012 and 2014, nearly 54,000 residents 70 or older left popular retirement havens of Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas to move to states that are typically more known for losing most young retirees, like California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York. That is a 45 percent rise in older seniors moving to those states compared to the 2009 to 2011 period, according to a Stateline analysis of Census data.

Moves from Florida to New York nearly doubled to more than 11,000 from 2012 to 2014, the research shows. Older retirees moving from Arizona to California surged 80 percent to about 9,500.

The data could suggest that many older retirees are moving because they aren’t as healthy or wealthy as they were prior to their move and may need to rely on family for help. They also may be homesick.

“People might need to rely on help from family more,” says Karen Smith Conway, an economics professor at the University of New Hampshire, who studies the migration shifts of older Americans.

But the moves raise the question: If the costs of housing in California is more than twice the national average, why would they go back? New Jersey and New York are also known as being pricier than North Carolina, Illinois, and Texas. So why leave a low-cost state for a more expensive one in retirement?

Younger retirees tend to head south when they are healthier, independent, and have more spending power, explains Jon Rork, an economics professor at Reed College who studies retirement migration. When they’re not as healthy and wealthy or dependent, retirees may be more apt to want to return to where they’re from and rely on the state for health care and other services. New York and New Jersey are known for offering more generous Medicaid payments to beneficiaries than other states.

Source: “Can You Go Home Again? Some Older Retirees Say Yes,” The Pew Charitable Trusts (Oct. 6, 2016)