Essex, Vt. - Understanding why people love Vermont is easy but for UVM geography professor Cheryl Morse those details require data.
"We didn't really understand all the factors that went into people's decisions to either stay in Vermont, leave permanently or return toVvermont after a time away," Morse said.
Morse and three other vermont researchers created an online survey to try and answer those questions. They expected only a few hundred people to respond.
"We got 3700 responses in three weeks," Morse said.
The most surprising answer...
"For 78 percent of the people who say they left to say they still miss home in some cases after living seven decades outside the state is really phenomenal," Morse said.
Nearly 63 percent of respondents who have lived in Vermont all their life say it is to live near family.
But according to the survey the number one reason vermonters stay is the landscape. 70 percent of respondents say they are here for the beautiful scenery.
But there are also compelling reasons people leave.
38 percent of respondents who no longer live in Vermont say they left for a job. While nearly the same percentage say they can earn more money outside the state.
Morse says she hopes this data can make a difference.
"That will help policy makers decide which programs to put in place or education leaders to determine what kind of training program we need," Morse said.
Permanent Residents (those who stayed in Vermont)
Reasons for Staying in Vermont Frequency (Out of 1,129) Percent
Enjoy living in Vermont 845 74.8
Would like to leave, but haven’t had opportunity 170 12.4
Never wanted to live outside state 353 31.3
Work in Vermont 398 35.3
Stayed to live near family 709 62.8
Needed to care for family 117 10.1
Partner did not want to leave 159 14.1
Wanted to raise children in VT 511 45.2
Decided VT best place for me 289 25.6
Activities that don’t exist elsewhere 167 14.8
Like VT’s small size 612 54.2
Appreciate VT’s Cultural/Community 634 56.2
Enjoy VT’s Landscape 791 70.1
Quotes on Reasons for Staying:
-“14th generation Vermonter. Proud to be a citizen on the great former republic.”
-“Freedom and Unity”
-“I never felt the need to live elsewhere.”
-“I was born here and, if I’m to die, I aim to do that here too.”
-“Want to leave VT, but stuck here right now.”
Migrants (those who have left Vermont) (out of 1903)
Reasons for Leaving Frequency Percent
I never enjoyed living in VT and planned to leave 105 5.5
My work is located outside VT 721 37.9
It would not be possible to do my work in VT 269 14.1
I can earn more money outside of VT 708 37.2
Extended family lives outside VT 122 6.4
Partner does not want to live in VT 275 14.1
VT’s cold weather is intolerable 349 18.3
Want to live an area with greater cultural diversity 494 26
Prefer to live in a larger urban area 447 23.5
Can’t do my favorite recreational activities in VT 61 3.2
Cost of living is too high 355 18.7
- Education listed as an additional reason for leaving
Quotes about Leaving
-“Vermont is expensive relative to wages earned, homogeneous, and lack, in most areas, ethnic and cultural diversity.”
-“Vermont is nice and peaceful, but overly so. I require more stimulation.”
-“Work. That’s the one and only reason.”
Present Attachment to Vermont Frequency Percent
I haven’t been to VT in years and do not plan to visit 79 4.2
Visit family in VT 1504 79
Visit friends in VT from time to time 901 47.3
Own a camp or second home in VT 189 9.9
Visit during hunting season 37 1.9
Occasionally vacation in VT 412 21.7
Over the years, considered moving back to VT but no serious attempt 579 30.4
Like to move permanently to VT, but haven’t found right opportunity 375 19.7
Plan to retire to VT 166 8.7
Do you ever feel homesick for VT 1488 78.2
Quotes about Present Attachment
-“Burial plot in Proctorsville.”
-“I hardly ever go, but dream of going back every day.”
-“I still call Vermont ‘home’, even though we haven’t lived there in years!”
Quotes about Missing Vermont
-“All of it”
-“Autumn, rural towns, snow”
-“Beauty, kind people, pride in Vermont”
-“Being able to say I’m from Vermont”
-“I will always consider myself a Vermonter. I am very proud that I was born and raised there. I am very grateful for growing up in the country. I have a great love of nature. I miss the seasons. I miss sugaring, foliage, the smell of cow and horse manure, the smell of a just hayed field, the smell of red clover. I could go on and on.”
-“It’s not something I can put into words”
-“The landscape and its people”
-“The way it used to be”
Reasons for Returning Frequency Percent
Always wanted to return 257 38.9
Things didn’t work out in previous location 81 12.3
Work brought me back 51 7.7
New job opportunity allowed me to move back 115 17.4
Returned to care for a family member 66 10
Partner wanted to move to VT 73 11
Wanted to raise children in VT 242 36.6
Wanted to retire to VT 35 5.2
Missed VT Culture/Community 289 43.7
Enjoy VT’s recreational activities 173 26.2
Missed the VT landscape 299 45.2
Missed my family 327 49.5
Missed friends 101 15.3
Appreciate VT’s small size 263 39.8
Viewed my time away from VT as temporary and knew I would return 171 25.9
Future Plans Frequency Percent
Plan to move permanently 68 10.3
Would like to move out of VT now, but don’t have the opportunity 57 8.6
Would like to retire outside of VT 74 11.2
Likely more outside of VT but return again 80 12.1
Would like to live part-time in VT and part-time elsewhere 171 25.9
Plan to remain in VT 335 50.7
Quotes about Returning
-“I wanted my children to live near my parents”
-“Partner wanted to return”
-“Because I am a Vermonter. I love it here”
-“Cost of living and quality of life while raising our children”
“It was time to come home”
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