Where are Americans Moving?

Recent data show which states are gaining and losing population which can have an implication for Congressional seats in the upcoming census.

Recent data from some big moving companies provide a glimpse into the migratory patterns of Americans within the country.

United Van Lines recently released data for 2019 showing which states in the country are gaining and losing population.

These are the states that lost the most population to outbound moves:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Illinois
  3. New York
  4. Connecticut
  5. Kansas
  6. Ohio
  7. California
  8. Michigan
  9. North Dakota
  10. Iowa

And the ones gaining? Here were the top ten:

  1. Idaho
  2. Oregon
  3. Arizona
  4. South Carolina
  5. Washington
  6. District of Columbia
  7. Florida
  8. South Dakota
  9. North Carolina
  10. New Mexico

One anomaly was Vermont, which shows the highest percentage of inbound moves of any state, however, according to United Van Lines, “Although Vermont experienced the highest percentage of inbound moves overall, United Van Lines moved fewer than 250 families in and out of the state. The inbound and outbound rankings in this year’s study only reflect states with 250 moves or more.”

For comparison, U-Haul also released its data from 2019 showing where Americans were moving last year.

U-Haul found that Illinois, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania were at the bottom of its list (representing more outbound moves) while Florida was the number one state for gaining the most new residents. It was followed by Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington.

“Florida has been showing signs of growth for a decade,” said Miguel Caminos, U-Haul Company of Orlando president. “There’s an expectation of comfort for people moving here. They know there are jobs. Plus, there are tons of attractions, and our state is family-friendly. The weather is perfect, and no matter where you live, you’re less than an hour from the beach.”

Taxes are a Factor

Florida certainly boasts warm weather to attract new residents away from the snow and ice often seen in the northeastern and midwestern states this time of year. It also has no state income tax, something that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal said is a big influence for the continued influx of new residents these states are seeing.

The Wall Street Journal analyzed recent data from the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service to make its case.

In the last ten years, New York, Alaska, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey all have experienced population declines according to the data.

“What do these states have in common?,” asked the Wall Street Journal in its article. “Large tax burdens and politically powerful public unions.”

The article analyzed net losses and gains in adjusted gross income (AGI) in states that are both losing and gaining population, respectively.

For instance, it notes that California and New York have the two highest marginal tax rates of any state in the country at 13.3% and 12.7%. In 2019, California lost $8 billion in AGI to other states, up from just $135 million 8 years ago. New York has lost $18 billion in the last 2 years.

The article blamed tax increases on higher income earners for the increase in losses of both population and AGI.

The Tax Foundation notes that taxes are an important factor in migratory patterns between states, but says it’s more complex than that:

For many individuals, job opportunities, family considerations, and lifestyle preferences are among the primary factors driving a decision to move out of state, but tax considerations can certainly play a role. This is perhaps most visible in smaller states and states with metropolitan centers located near state borders. For example, tens of thousands of individuals work in greater Chicago but live in Indiana, where many interstate commutes are attributable, at least in part, to stark differences in tax landscapes. While it is difficult to measure the extent to which tax considerations factor into individuals’ moving decisions, there is no doubt that taxes are important in many individuals’ personal financial deliberations.

2020 Census and Implications for Congressional Seats

Whatever the reason for states gaining and losing population, it becomes a factor for assigning Congressional seats in this year’s census. For instance, Texas could gain three Congressional seats and Florida could gain two, both due to the states seeing general increases in population.

On the other side, ten states in the northeast and midwest are poised to lose Congressional seats. California could lose its first ever Congressional seat.

This year’s census will be conducted in the spring and reapportionment based on its results would not take effect until the 2022 elections. 

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.