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Is Washington, D.C. the New NYC? Gen Z Seems To Think So

Back Bay, Boston. Spring colors, Victorian architecture

Default Author Icon Written by Taelor Candiloro Updated 04/17/2024

Americans have been eager to move across state lines and into new cities. About 8.2 million people moved states in 2022, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data. That’s up nearly 4% from 2021 and just the latest in a decade-long trend of rising state-to-state migration, but the city data paints a much more interesting story.

Seattle, Washington, saw the greatest net migration across generations of any other city in 2022 after seeing a population dip during the COVID-19 pandemic (its first since the early 1970s). Nashville, Tennessee, and San Antonio, Texas, came in at No. 2 and No. 3 for the most net migrations across generations. Population declines remained for New York City, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon—these cities had the largest negative net migrations in 2022.

Interestingly, the cities Americans are moving to and from vary greatly between generations. For example, while Seattle was a top choice for millennials, it wasn’t even in the top 10 cities where Generation Zers moved in 2022.

We analyzed Census Bureau data to better understand moving trends by generation. We also looked at 2022 American Community Survey data to dig into each generation’s motivations for moving. Read our Methodology section at the bottom of the article to learn more about our data gathering process.

Key Findings
Older generations are leaving large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, but Gen Z is moving in.
Washington, D.C., ranks No. 1 for net Gen Z migration for the second consecutive year, with a net migration of 13,968. 
New York City was the top city for millennials to move to in 2012, but in 2022, it was the top city for millennials to leave, with a net loss of 46,000.
Older generations are heading to southwestern states, specifically Arizona, Texas, and Nevada.

Gen Z Moves to Big Cities While Others Move Out 

Gen Zers are moving in while other generations are vacating their homes in big cities. Gen Z flocked to D.C. and Chicago in droves, while thousands of millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers chose to leave those cities in 2022. Millennials are on the move because they’re in favor of more midsize, tech-hub cities.


Washington, D.C., Is the New NYC For Gen Z

More Gen Zers moved to New York City in 2022 compared to 2021, but it’s not a top destination like it was for millennials over a decade ago. Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston were the top three cities with the biggest net migration of Gen Zers in 2022. They chose big cities over smaller ones such as Bakersfield, California, Naperville, Illinois, and Boise, Idaho—those three cities saw the biggest decrease in Gen Z population in 2022.

D.C. took the top spot for Gen Z net migration for the second year in a row, and Boston came in third. Chicago and New York are newer Gen Z hotspots, moving from No. 53 to No. 2 and No. 26 to No. 4, respectively. 

Philadelphia also saw a Gen Z increase last year, moving from No. 8 to No. 5, and Los Angeles jumped from No. 54 to No. 6.


Millennials Trade NYC and LA for Tech Hubs 

Millennials are leaving major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, but they’re not exactly trading their city lifestyles for the countryside. Instead, they’re migrating to tech-hub cities with economic opportunities and big art scenes.

Seattle, Washington, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, saw the biggest net migration of millennials in 2022, with Charlotte, North Carolina, and Denver, Colorado, rounding out the top five.

This is a big shift from 2021, when Seattle ranked No. 115 in terms of millennial influx. Enough millennials moved to the Emerald City in just one year to knock Austin out of its top seat. Meanwhile, Nashville rose from No. 12 to No. 3.


Most millennials are moving away from New York City, Los Angeles, D.C., Philadelphia, and Las Vegas—these cities saw the biggest millennial population losses in 2022.

New York City had the highest outflow of millennial residents for the second year in a row. Los Angeles and D.C. were also in the top five last year. The big shifts were the millennials choosing to leave Las Vegas and Philadelphia, as both cities saw a positive net migration of millennials in 2021.

Older Generations Leave California, Seek Sun Elsewhere

California’s sunny weather isn’t enough to keep Americans who are in (or nearing) their retirement years. In 2022, Los Angeles and San Diego were in the top five most left cities for members of the Silent Generation and baby boomers and in the top six for Gen X. 

Instead, most Americans aged 58+ are moving to other warm-weather cities in states like Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.


California saw the largest population decrease of any state in 2022, but Americans are still chasing sunshine. Florida was the top state to move to, with Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia rounding out the top five.

Interestingly, Americans of all ages were swapping out their California license plates in 2022. The state was the No. 1 most left overall and ranked among the top two most left states across all generations. New York was a close second, also ranking in the top two most left states for every generation except Gen Z, where New Jersey overwhelmingly took the top spot (with more than 50,000 leaving).


There was also more variety in the states Americans were moving to. The majority of Gen Zers moved to Texas in 2022, followed by North Carolina and Connecticut. Millennials also flocked to Texas, but Florida and Georgia took the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, with Connecticut also quite popular in spot No. 4.

For Gen X, it was Florida and the Carolinas. For baby boomers, it was Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. For the Silent Generation, it was Florida, Arizona, and Texas.

An interesting note: Alaska saw a positive migration of millennials and Gen Zers in 2022, with a net migration of 5,088 millennials and 903 Gen Z residents. Every other generation saw a negative migration from the Last Frontier State.

Reasons for Moving by Generation

The top motivation for Americans of all generations to move in 2022 was improving their housing situation. This included them wanting to move into a bigger space, their own space, or moving out of a rental and into a home they now own. However, there were a few other top reasons that varied by generation.

Independence was a top reason for Gen Zers, with 16% of respondents saying they moved “to establish their own household.” This motivation was followed by 12% who cited wanting to move into a newer/better/larger house or apartment. Moving to attend or leave college was the third most popular reason (11%).

Moving motivations were similar among millennials, with over 14% wanting a newer/better/larger house or apartment and over 12% wanting to establish their own household. The biggest difference from Gen Z was the 12% of millennials who moved for a new job or transfer.

Over 15% of Gen Xers cited wanting a newer/better/larger house or apartment as a top choice for moving, while more than 12% cited unspecified family-related motivations, and 10% wanted to own a home, not rent.

Fourteen percent of baby boomers and the Silent Generation cited unspecified family-related reasons, more than 11% said they moved for cheaper housing, and just under 11% cited an unspecified housing reason.


We analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey one-year estimates for 2012, 2021, and 2022 and calculated net migration figures by generation across 186 major U.S. cities.

Generations were mapped to the following age ranges for 2021 and 2022 migration figures:

  • Generation Z: Ages 18–24
  • Millennials: Ages 25–44
  • Generation X: Ages 45–54
  • Baby Boomers: Ages 55–74
  • Silent Generation: Ages 75+
  • “Millennial” was mapped as ages 18–24 for 2012 migration figures.

We used the following metrics for each city for each year to calculate net migration:

  • Inflow: At the city level, this is the number of people moving into the city from a different state. At the state level, this is the number of people moving to the state. 
  • Outflow: At the city level, this is the number of people moving out of the city to a different state. At the state level, this is the number of people moving out of the state.

Full Data 

You can view our full dataset below.


Questions about our study? Please contact the author here.

Fair Use Policy

We encourage journalists and reporters to share our findings on moving by generation. If you choose to do so, please link back to our original story to give us proper credit for our research.