September 12, 2023
Since the COVID pandemic, shifts in population—from states like California and New York to destinations such as Texas and Florida—have been well documented. But those numbers measured everyone leaving a state, irrespective of whether they were born there.
But which states are best at retaining their native residents—in other words, in demographic terms, which states are the stickiest? This is an issue that plagues a number of states, including mine. Vermont is very good at educating its young people. Unfortunately, after having invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in each child over the course of 13 years of public education, we then see them leave the state at fairly high rates.
The good news in the Green Mountains is that Vermont does not rank in the bottom five of the “stickiness” scale; that honor belongs to Wyoming, where only 45.2% of natives remain. The rest of the bottom four? North Dakota (48.6%), Alaska (48.7%), South Dakota (54.2%) and Rhode Island (55.2%).
At the other end of the spectrum, Texas is the stickiest state in the country by far, with approximately 82% of native Texans still living there in 2021. The next stickiest states are North Carolina (75.5%), Georgia (74.2%), California (73.0%) and Utah (72.9%).
What do the five stickiest states have that the five least-sticky lack? Cities. Altogether, the five stickiest states have 15 metropolitan statistical areas with populations exceeding 1 million; among the five least-sticky states, there is only one such metro (Providence, Rhode Island). Even when including smaller cities, those top stickiest states have 28 metros with 500,000 or more residents versus still just one among the bottom five.