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The UK locations where most people are likely to stay

There are many reasons why we choose to live in certain places, from having friends and family around the corner, to being in the middle of a city’s hustle and bustle. But where are the areas people are least likely to move away from?

To find the UK locations where people are most likely to stick around, we delved into data, looking at 70 of the most and least populated towns and cities to reveal where people are staying put the most.

Looking at annual population data since 2010, we’ve also predicted which locations across the country will see the most people leave up until the year 2030.

The locations where people are most likely to stay 

Through our research, we can reveal the 10 locations up and down the country that see the fewest people leaving the area.

Rank Location Population Total retention % in 2019-2020 Predicted retention % in 2030
1 Merthyr Tydfil 60,424 97.68% 97.78%
2 Barrow-in-Furness 66,726 97.41% 97.46%
3 Sunderland 277,846 97.26% 96.81%
4 Wigan 330,712 97.21% 96.61%
5 Barnsley 248,071 97.15% 96.16%
6 Hartlepool 93,836 97.07% 96.18%
7 Wakefield 351,592 97.02% 96.47%
7 Doncaster 312,785 97.02% 96.40%
8 Dudley 322,363 96.91% 95.91%
9 Rotherham 264,984 96.81% 95.72%
10 Carlisle 108,524 96.64% 96.05%

1. Merthyr Tydfil ranks as the location with the highest population retention rates. The small Welsh town saw just 1,399 people leave in 2020 for a new start, keeping 97.68% of its population. Just 1,459 people on average are expected to leave every year from 2022 to 2030, meaning it will keep 97.78% of its population in the year 2030.

2. Barrow-in-Furness, the second least-populated town in the ranking, is revealed to have kept 97.41% of its population in 2020, with just 1,726 people leaving in that year. Retention is expected to decline slightly in 2025 (97.36%) but rise again in 2030 (97.46%) with a yearly average of 1,767 people set to move away between 2022 and 2030.

3. Sunderland ranks third overall, keeping 97.26% of its population. That equates to just 7,615 people leaving in 2020. The port city has a population of 227,846 and is expected to see an average of 8,678 residents leave over the next decade.

4. Wigan, part of Greater Manchester, is also in the top five, with 97.21% of its population choosing to stay in 2020. The former mining town can expect to see an average of 11,090 citizens leaving the area every year until 2030.

5. Barnsley is ranked fifth overall with 97.15% of its population staying in the town in 2020. The market town is expected to see a slight increase in people leaving by 2030, holding on to 96.16% of its population by the end of the decade.

Where are the most-populated places where people are likely to stay?

Places with big populations have a number of benefits that make people want to continue living there.

These locations dominate the top cities where people are least likely to move away. We also looked solely at the 35 areas with the largest populations to reveal which areas with the most residents have the highest population retention rates.

Aside from Sunderland, Wigan and Barnsley, other places with big populations where people are unlikely to move away include Wakefield and Doncaster.

Located in Yorkshire and The Humber, an estimated 351,592 people lived in Wakefield in 2020. 97.02% stayed in the area, with just 10,467 people moving away. Similarly, Doncaster kept the same percentage of its population (97.02%), seeing just 9,324 residents move away.

Despite this, both locations can expect to see more people moving by 2030, with 96.47% of residents remaining in Wakefield and 96.40% staying in Doncaster.

Where are the least-populated places where people are most likely to stay

While some people love the hustle and bustle of densely populated cities, others look for a calmer environment. We analysed the 35 least-populated towns and cities to find out where people are most likely to stay.

Merthyr Tydfil and Barrow-in-Furness take the top spot overall for retaining their populations. When looking at the lowest-populated places with the best retention rates, Hartlepool and Carlisle also rank high (third and fourth place respectively). A total of 2,747 people left Hartlepool in 2020, meaning it kept 97.07% of its population. while 3,643 left Carlisle leaving 96.64% of the city’s population behind.

By 2030, the number of people set to leave Hartlepool is predicted to increase, averaging 3,330 people per year while 4,175 on average are expected to leave Carlisle between now and 2030.

With people staying where they live in many places across the country, it’s clear that we’re a nation of people with close ties to the place we call home.

Brought to you by the life insurance experts at Comparethemarket



  • Office for National Statistics
    • Seedlist - Top 35 most populated and 35 least populated locations taken. Please note, local authorities and metropolitan areas were removed to focus solely on towns and cities.
    • Population for 2019 - 2020 - The latest available data was used (mid 2019 - mid 2020).
    • Population predictions were calculated using all available data of population estimates from mid-2010 to mid-2020 using the trend formula.
    • Local migration - Migration predictions for the next 10 years - All available data of migration flows from mid-2011 to mid-2020 used to create outflow/inflow predictions up until 2030 using the trend formula.
    • Average outflow expected - An average was taken from the 2021 prediction of outflow and the 2030 prediction of outflow to allow us to see which locations are likely to see the most people move away.