NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 20, 2010

Every day thousands of Americans vote with their feet on the best places to live and work, and these migration patterns can tell a lot about state economies -- and economic policies, says the Wall Street Journal.  United Van Lines has released its annual report for 2009, based on those the moving company has relocated across one state line to another, and the winner is . . . 

But first the biggest loser, which was Michigan for the fourth year in a row.  More than two families left the state for every family that moved in.  The fall of GM and Chrysler has obviously hurt, but two-term Governor Jennifer Granholm has also made her state the test case for the policy mix of raising taxes on higher incomes, increasing regulation, and steering taxpayer money at favored programs like job retraining and renewable energy.  It hasn't worked for Michigan, even with the auto bailouts, says the Journal.

  • The next two biggest net losers were Illinois and New Jersey, while California and New York also continued to have far more departures than arrivals.
  • Ten states gained net arrivals: Oregon, Arkansas, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and North Carolina.
  • Of those, only Oregon sways decidedly to the political left and it has benefited from the economic refugees fleeing California.

Six of the eight states with no income tax were magnets for families, while eight of the 10 highest income tax states had more people packing.  Democrats in state capitals and Washington have convinced themselves that "soak the rich" tax policies can help balance budgets, but the main effect seems to be to stimulate bon voyage parties, says the Journal.

As for the biggest winner, well, no one should be surprised to learn that it was Washington, D.C., by a large margin.  United Van Lines moved nearly seven families to the federal city last year for every three it moved out.  As always when the feds gear up the income redistribution machine, the imperial city and its denizens get a big cut of the action, says the Journal. 

Source: Editorial, "The Great D.C. Migration; Americans move to where your money is," Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2010. 

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