People, it’s often said, vote with their feet. They move to where they see opportunity; they leave places that thwart their prospects. It’s not a perfect measure, but it is a good one.
In New Geography, Joel Kotkin analyzes IRS data to discover where Americans are moving these days. Washington ranks among the top 10, coming in at No. 8.
Here’s how it’s calculated.
To measure the states that are most attractive to Americans on the move, we developed an “attraction” ratio that measures the number of domestic in-migrants per 100 out-migrants. A state that has a rating of 100 would be perfectly balanced between those leaving and coming.
In some respects, Washington is an outlier.
Most of the top gainers of domestic migrants are low-tax, low-regulation states, including No. 2 South Carolina, with an attraction ratio of 127.3, as well as No. 5 North Dakota, and No. 7 Nevada. These states generally have lower housing costs than the states losing the most migrants.
But it’s not simply a matter of taxes and regulations. There are three states in our top 10 with mixed reputations for red tape and taxes: Oregon (fourth), Colorado (sixth), and Washington (eighth). These are states that have thriving information and professional business services sectors, which offer higher wages.
The graphics, at the Forbes website, provide a bit more information on Washington: The state has an attraction ratio of 116.4 (meaning 116.4 in-migrants for every 100 leaving the state), net domestic migration of 27,044, and the incoming population has income levels 6.9 percent higher than the out-migrants.
As Kotkin writes,
High costs go a long way to explain which states are losing the most migrants. At the top, or rather, the bottom of the list is New York State, which had an abysmal 65.4 attraction ratio in 2014 and lost by far the most net migrants, an astounding 126,000 people. Close behind was Illinois, a high tax, high regulation, and low growth disaster area. In 2014 the Land of Lincoln had an abysmal 67.2 attraction ratio, losing a net 82,000 domestic migrants.
Earlier, we wrote about millennials as bellwethers, focusing on a Stateline story describing how Rust Belt cities are vying for the young, educated workers who can transform local economies by launching innovative, tech-driven industry. The Kotkin article implies that those efforts face challenges.
Much of the discussion about millennial migration tends to focus on high-cost, dense urban regions such as those that dominate New York, Massachusetts and, of course, California. Yet the IRS data tells us a very different story about migrants aged 26 to 34. Here it’s Texas in the lead, and by a wide margin, followed by Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Florida and New Hampshire.
Overall, on the in-migration measure, Washington looks good. But the statewide story continues to overshadow the divisions within the state we have previously described. As Kotkin writes, the state’s mixed reputation for red tape and taxes continues to place it at a disadvantage, albeit a disadvantage more easily overcome by the technology sectors that continual to propel the Puget Sound metro area economy.
Our roadmap charts a path toward shared prosperity, a path that we believe will break down intrastate divisions while encouraging the positive pattern of in-migration that drives economic prosperity.