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US Net Domestic Migration Patterns


Bloomberg – Goodbye, New York, California and Illinois. Hello … Where? – Justin Fox 1/9/20

New York, California and Illinois have been hemorrhaging residents. Almost 3.2 million more people left those states for elsewhere in the U.S. than arrived from other states, from 2010 through 2019, according to population estimates released last week by the Census Bureau. Nine other states saw net out-migration of more than 100,000 people over that period, but none really came close to the big three.

Thanks to 2 million more births than deaths and 1 million newcomers from other countries, California’s population still grew by about 2 million over this period, a gain that trailed only those of Texas and Florida. New York’s population grew but only slightly, while Illinois lost an estimated 159,751 people between 2010 and 2019. Yes, these are all big states, but New York and Illinois ranked second and third in net domestic migration as percentage of 2010 population, behind only Alaska (California ranked 13th).

Where are all these people going? The Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative Albany think tank, put together some estimates for New York based on data that the Internal Revenue Service gleans from tax returns… This inspired me (Justin Fox) to do the same for California and Illinois. Here are the Empire Center’s numbers for New York:

Domestic migration statistics are frequently cited as evidence of the failures of blue-state governance, in particular the higher taxes imposed by states that are losing lots of residents. There’s something to that — income-tax-free Florida sure is attracting a lot of affluent people from Illinois and New York, and a recent study of high-income California taxpayers concluded that a 2012 income tax increase there did in fact drive some away. But California, Illinois and New York have all experienced bigger per capita personal income gains than the nation as a whole since the beginning of 2010, and all saw taxpayers with incomes below $50,000 overrepresented among the leavers from 2011 through 2018. These departures may indicate failures of governance as well, but it’s a different set of governance failures, presumably related more to housing costs, commutes and job opportunities than taxes per se.

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