NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 12, 2008

A record eight million Americans -- some 20,000 people every day -- relocated to another state last year.  So where are these families headed and why?  The general picture is this: Americans are continuing to flee the Northeast and Midwest, while the leading destinations continue to be Southern and Western states, says the Wall Street Journal.

For example:

  • A United Van Lines study finds that the biggest population loser last year was Michigan, where two families moved out of the state for every new family that moved in.
  • Americans are also fleeing New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Without interviewing the departed, it's impossible to know the reasons for this outward migration.  No doubt overall economic prospects, climate, quality of life and housing prices play a role.  But one reason to conclude that taxes are also a motivator is because the eight states without an income tax are stealing talent from other states, says the Journal:

  • They are Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, and each one gained in net domestic migrants.
  • Each one except Florida -- which has sky-high property taxes on new homesteaders -- also ranked in the top 12 of destination states.

Governors would be wise to heed these interstate migration trends as they try to cope with what may be one of the worst years in recent memory for state finances.  The people who tend to be the most mobile in American society are the educated and motivated -- in other words, the taxpaying class. Tax them too much, and you'll soon find they aren't there to tax at all, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "States of Opportunity," Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2008.

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