Montana’s Great Migration

Did you move to Montana in the last decade? You’re not alone. As we reported in a recent blog post, Montana’s Population Surge, Montana saw a 9.6% increase in population from 2010 to 2020, finally putting the state’s population above the million mark (yet still, cows outnumber people in Montana).

The great migration to Montana hasn’t slowed in this new decade, either, as recent data from the US Census Bureau reports that Western Montana counties continue to experience an extremely high rate of growth.

Now, data from 2020 tax filings are revealing more about Montana’s newest residents in a recent report prepared for the Montana Legislative Fiscal Division. Here are the 4 biggest takeaways:

Goodbye California…Hello Montana

According to 2020 tax filing data, California brought the most transplants, with 2,500 people moving to Montana. Washington and Colorado were also major states of origin, followed by Oregon, Idaho and Texas.

Curious where Montanans jumping ship moved to? Tax records show they were most likely to move to Washington, Idaho and Arizona.

Source: Montana Legislative Fiscal Division

Western Montana Is Seeing The Largest Growth

Gallatin County (which includes Bozeman) saw the highest growth in 2020 tax filings, at 5.2%. Madison County (which includes Enis and Yellowstone Club) saw a 4.8% growth. Flathead County (home to Kalispell and Whitefish) saw a 4.5% growth.

Not surprising: these counties saw the largest growth as reported in the 2020 Census, at 32.9%, 11.3% and 14.8%, respectively.

Specifically regarding taxpayers over 65 years old, several rural counties in NW Montana saw significant growth, including Sanders (4.4%), Lincoln (4.3%) and Mineral (4.3%) Counties.

High Earning Transplants

New transplants to Montana in 2020 had significantly higher average incomes ($110,000 vs $82,000 for current Montana residents) however median incomes ($42,557 vs $50,000 for existing residents) shows that high earners might have skewed the data.

The top 10% of new residents had an average income of about $599,000, nearly double the average income reported by the equivalent slice of Montana’s highest income earners.

“They came here and got similar-paying jobs or brought their jobs with them. It wasn’t a scenario where they took a 10% pay cut to live in Montana.”

Sam Schaefer, Fiscal Analyst

Making The Same…Or More

For most Montana transplants, a change in scenery didn’t mean a change in lifestyle (or income). According to Fiscal Analyst Sam Schaefer, who presented the report, “(They) came here and got similar-paying jobs or they brought their jobs with them. It wasn’t a scenario where they took a 10% pay cut to live in Montana.”

You can read the entire report HERE.

So What?

We get it…life in Montana is perfect. With its endless recreation, access to National Parks and breathtaking beauty, it truly is the last best place. If you are curious what the great Montana migration has done for your home’s equity, contact us. We’d love to help you devise a strategy for your real estate goals, now and into the future.


Cover image: A development in southern Whitefish from June, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Kyna Williams

Kyna Williams

Kyna Williams has spent her entire career telling stories for world-renowned brands like Nike and Underwood wine-in-a-can. Now, she joins Revel as CMO and COO. On any given day, you can find Kyna negotiating ad buys, brewing a pot of coffee or assisting agents with their listing presentations.

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