Wealthy Millennials Coming to Montana
Montana reported a 6.7% net increase in its population of wealthy millennials — defined here as individuals ages 26–45 earning over $200,000 annually—to its population, according to Upgraded Points.
Overall, wealthy millennials are moving to Montana at the 3rd highest rate in the nation. Florida and Texas gained the most wealthy millennials, Vermont saw the largest percentage gain.
The Millennial generation is America’s largest, and as they move solidly into their peak earning and spending years, they are quickly asserting their economic power, reports Upgraded Points. Millennials are now the largest segment of the labor force and, within the last few years, have also become the largest share of homebuyers.
Between COVID-related changes in the labor market—including higher wages and more flexible working arrangements—and the preexisting tendency of younger and higher-earning workers to be mobile, millennials in the top income brackets have frequently been on the move. Researchers ranked states according to the net inbound migration of wealthy millennials as a percentage of wealthy millennial residents the year prior.
The millennial generation — those currently aged 27 to 42 — is America’s largest,¹ and as they move solidly into their peak earning and spending years, they are quickly asserting their economic power.
Millennials faced a tough economic outlook in their early working years. The impacts of the Great Recession, unprecedented levels of student loan debt, and stagnant wage growth made it difficult² to find good jobs and build wealth. But over time, the outlook has improved. Millennials are now the largest segment of the labor force.³ Within the last few years, they have also become the largest share of homebuyers. And other unique characteristics of the generation? — like higher educational attainment levels, especially for women — also contribute to economic advancement.
The COVID-19 economy also created some new opportunities for the millennial generation. Tightness in the labor market for much of the pandemic allowed many workers to change jobs in the last few years — sometimes multiple times — in search of higher wages or better working conditions. A wave of early retirements among older workers during the pandemic opened up opportunities for younger workers to move into higher-earning roles. And after working remotely during the pandemic, many workers have since successfully pushed for permanent work-from-home or other flexible arrangements that give them more control over where they work.
Because of these trends, the U.S. experienced a sharp rise in the rate of people moving across state lines from densely populated and expensive states to those offering some combination of more affordable housing, space for home offices, lower taxes, and better recreational opportunities. Such moves were common among wealthy millennials.
While out-of-state migration as a percentage of the total population remains near historic lows, out-of-state migration as a percentage of those who moved has increased significantly in recent years.
In 2000, nearly 1 in 5 people who have moved left 1 state for another. This rate fell off sharply as the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession set in, making it harder for people to find economic opportunities that justified an interstate move.
The out-of-state migration rate fell to a low of 11.5% in 2010 but began to move upward as the economy recovered in the following decade. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, out-of-state migration has risen sharply, jumping from 14.2% in 2020 to 17.3% in 2022.
Typically, however, rates of migration are higher during workers’ younger years. Workers have fewer major family or financial obligations at this stage of life, which allows them to be more mobile in pursuing job opportunities.
According to individual tax return statistics from the IRS, nearly 6% of those under age 25 moved out of state between 2020 and 2021, as did 4.5% of those aged 26 to 34 and 2.7% of those aged 35 to 44. In contrast, fewer than 2% of those in the 45+ age cohort migrated out of state.
Income was also a factor: lower earners moved between states at higher rates, with 3.7% of those earning $10,000 or less doing so. The highest earners — those making more than $200,000 — also moved at a slightly higher rate than most middle-income workers.