From July 2020 to July 2021, there was a net inflow of 637,729 Americans into these top-five destination states: Florida, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina.
During the same period, there was a net outflow of 918,443 Americans from these top-five exporter states: California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Louisiana.
All five of the top in-migration states have Republican legislatures. Four of the five have Republican governors (North Carolina is the exception). On the other side of the ledger, four of the top out-migration states have Democratic governors, and four of the five have Democratic legislatures. “That’s all you need to know!” Republicans proclaim. “That’s all just a coincidence!” Democrats insist.
You probably think I’m going to say that the truth is more complicated than either side would admit. And you’re right — but it’s not that much more complicated.
Partisan control of government is obviously not the sole determinant of where Americans choose to live. In fact, for many individuals and families seeking to relocate, whether a state has a Republican or Democratic legislature isn’t an explicit criterion at all. They’re taking new jobs, moving closer to family or other desirable amenities, or opting for warmer climes as they plan for or begin their retirement.
Indeed, if you look at the list of places experiencing a net outflow of Americans last year, it includes states such as Ohio and North Dakota with GOP governors and legislatures. And some blue states such as Colorado, Delaware and Oregon enjoyed a net influx.
Now that I’ve done the requisite throat-clearing, however, it is simply undeniable that when it comes to relocation patterns, politics matters. It’s not about party labels. It’s about what they signify.
Generally speaking, Republican-led states tax and regulate less than Democratic-led states do. These policy choices, in turn, tend to make Republican-led states gain population faster by producing signals that prospective migrants can readily discern.
For example, if you’re weighing multiple job offers with roughly comparable salaries, you may well go where you can buy the most house for your money, which will typically be in places where property taxes are low and home prices aren’t jacked up artificially by regulatory burdens.
Alternatively, if what you really want to do is start your own business rather than working for someone else, freer economies are usually the better bet.
Dozens of academic studies...
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