Study: Chattanooga is the top Tennessee city for attracting new residents, retaining population

Photography by Skip Skipper/148 Films / Downtown Chattanooga is seen from the air above Coolidge Park on Chattanooga's North Shore.

More than three times as many people have moved into Chattanooga as have left the metro area so far in 2022, making Chattanooga the top Tennessee city for the net inflow of new residents coming out of the pandemic.

A study of moving requests by the website found that Chattanooga had 3.06 new residents moving into the six-county metro region for every person moving out of the Chattanooga metro area from Jan. 1 to May 4, 2022. Across Tennessee, Memphis was the only metro area showing a decline in population so far this year. The state as a whole continues to outpace the nation in drawing new residents.

"With a strong job market and the eighth-lowest cost of living in the U.S., more and more people are discovering that there's more to Tennessee than music and food," Joe Robison, a data analyst for, said in a recent report on Tennessee moving trends.

For all of 2021, moveBuddha said its moving requests showed Tennessee ranked the eighth highest of all states in net immigration from other states.

"Our end-of-the-year migration report found a 14.2% increase in move interest (to Tennessee)," moveBuddha spokeswoman Kristen Klepac said in an email statement. "In 2022, Californians (at 22%) dominate inflow into Tennessee."

The new report echoes similar population estimates prepared by the Census Bureau showing Tennessee adding 55,099 more residents in the 12 months ended July, 2021.

A separate Census Bureau estimate said Chattanooga was as one of the top major cities in the MidSouth growing population within the urban core last year.

Highest inflow cities

Chattanooga was the top Tennessee city for the share of people moving into town compared with those leaving the metro area during the first four months of 2022. The top drawing cities in Tennessee in 2022, and the share of persons moving into the metro area compared with the number moving out of town, are:1. Chattanooga - 306 to 1002. Johnson City - 273 to 1003. Knoxville - 181 to 1003. Nashville - 181 to 1005. Brentwood - 166 to 1006. Cleveland - 148 to 1007. Clarksville - 143 to 1008. Spring Hill - 140 to 1009. Mount Juliet - 137 to 10010. Franklin - 122 to 100Sources: MoveBuddha. The 2022 data from moveBuddha was collected from Jan 1 to May 4, 2022 for those looking to move throughout the year.

Gig city appeal for remote workers

As more workers have shifted to remote work and are able to live wherever they choose, many are picking Chattanooga as their new home. The self-described "Gig City" has high-speed connections to every home for such remote work while still offering the natural and outdoor attractions and lower cost of living of a Southern midsize city.

"Leaders in both our private and public sectors have been working together for years to build a great community," Charles Wood, vice president of economic and talent development for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday in response to the new population report. "The numbers of people moving here are evidence this approach works. People vote with their feet."

Retiring to the mountains

Tennessee has proven especially attractive in drawing retirees.

Atop Jasper Mountain in Marion County, the gated community created by Chattanooga developer John "Thunder" Thornton has attracted relocating residents over the past decade from 47 states and six foreign countries, most of them retirees looking for lower costs of living and mountaintop, specious living, Thornton said.

With the success of Jasper Highlands, Thornton is launching an even bigger development this year atop nearby Aetna Mountain, which he expects to eventually grow to a $1.5 billion development. Like Jasper Highlands, most of the residents are expected to be retired or near retirement when they buy.

"Thanks to the state's affordability, small tax burden and mild weather, Tennessee is particularly attractive for those looking to retire and was recently named the third best state for retirees," Robison said.

But the inflow of new residents could limit some of the price advantages of living in Tennessee as the higher demand for housing is pushing up home prices and rental rates more in Chattanooga than in most of the country.

The Zumper National Rent Report released earlier this week showed the average rental rate for a two-bedroom apartment in Chattanooga was up by 21.7% from a year ago, and Knoxville rents for two-bedroom apartments were up 32.4% in the past year. Such gains were more than twice the average for the U.S. as a whole, according to Zumper.

Similarly, the median price of homes sold in Chattanooga last month was up 21.2% from a year ago, also more than double the U.S. average, according to the Greater Chattanooga Realtors association.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 423-757-6340. Follow on Twitter at @dflessner1