Survey Says People Stay in VT for Landscape, Leave for Jobs

Published 04/28 2014 04:44AM

Updated 04/28 2014 10:11AM

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.

Survey Results

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 home”

-“It’s not something I can put into words”

-“The landscape and its people”

-“The way it used to be”



Returnees (to Vermont) (Out of 661)


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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