Paul L. Caron

Saturday, September 18, 2010

State Migration Trends, 1993-2008: From Blue States to Red States

Tax Foundation logo The Tax Foundation has released a State to State Migration Data calculator:

The Tax Foundation has launched an interactive tool that shows state-to-state migration data, including the number of taxpayers that move into and out of a particular state, along with changes in the flow of income to and from the state.

Users select a state and a range of years between 1993 and 2008. The site then calculates immigration to and emigration from that state. Because the tool is based on IRS tax return data which include both personal and financial information, the site can calculate the flows of both people and their income. Also, data can be compared between two specific states or between one state and all other states.

Here are the ten states with the largest net migration outflow from 1993-2008:



Tax Return Outflow

Exemptions Outflow

AGI Outflow



















































Nine of the ten states voted for President Obama in 2008 (the tenth state -- Louisiana -- suffered massive migration from Hurricane Katrina).

Here are the ten states with the largest net migration inflow from 1993-2008:



Tax Return Inflow

Exemptions Inflow

AGI Inflow



















































Five of the ten states voted for John McCain in 2008; nine of the ten states voted for President Bush in 2004.

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met a lovely lady at an arts fair in nc last year - 75 yrs old with her husband. what made me want to speak to her was her t-shirt that read "WE DON'T GIVE A DAMN HOW YOU DID IT UP NORTH!" that's pretty much how we feel

Posted by: dianne | Sep 20, 2010 6:15:54 PM


State-to-state migration is a subset of population change. Looking merely at population changes gives you some information, but this dataset also provides you with some additional information.

Foreign isn't state-to-state...hence state-to-state migration.

Also from that FAQ you cite is this:

Since you are the Tax Foundation, aren't you trying to imply that taxes are why people move between states?

No. Taxes are one of hundreds of factors that go into a person's decision to move. Others include age, technology, job prospects and the quality/quantity of government services provided. If one looks anecdotally at the data, he/she will see that people move from high-tax states to low-tax states and vice versa. A true study that sought to quantify the importance of taxes for locational decisions would need to account for as many other factors as possible, in addition to possible serial correlation issues between variables, especially taxes.

And the "about page" answers your other issues:

I don't think the Tax Foundation (this time) is deliberately misleading people. Furthermore, the person who created this page was the same as created the tax cut calculator (, which is also presented in a fairly neutral way.

Posted by: Jeff | Sep 20, 2010 6:07:47 PM

Last red out, you meant David rather than me, but I agree in large part with what he said. When we would hear Yankees telling us how they did things up north, rather than curtly tell they should leave if they didn't like our ways, our response would be "Delta's ready when you are."

Posted by: Woody | Sep 20, 2010 5:02:14 PM

Woody: As a Carpet Bagger from Massachusetts now living in South Florida, I can honestly say that not all of us from up North vote Democrat or want to do things "the way we did them up North".

Posted by: Last red out of MA | Sep 20, 2010 11:58:49 AM

What's also interesting is the average AGI per return. A quick comparision of my tri-state area reveals: SC $88k per return, NC $62k per return, and GA $40k per return. Am I looking at that right? I guess that means workers to Atlanta, retirees to the SC coast, and a combo thereof for NC as between mountains/coast and Charlotte/Triangle.

Posted by: Matt | Sep 20, 2010 10:28:53 AM

Ok, so it comes from the IRS. Still, the data is presented selectively and misleadingly. This is why the author bends over backwards to avoid simple census numbers, which show that many number of the blue states gained population in huge amounts over the selected time period.

For one, why not include foreign migration data? It's right there in the data, but it is conspicuously absent in the tool. And shockingly (note sarcasm), if you dig into the data a bit you find that blue states get a huge chunk of their net migration from the "foreign" category. It turns out foreigners aren't terribly attracted to low tax meccas like Tennessee. That doesn't fit into our worldview, so let's throw it out!

And that is just a part of the misleading nature of these numbers. Reading from the Tax Foundation FAQ verbatim, you see "Foreign migration, new births, and deaths must also be considered to get a complete picture of a state's population change, and our tool does not include that data".

So naturalized citizens don't count? Three guesses as to who leads that category. know, the big loser that is chasing people away by the droves! Births and deaths don't count? So...a 70 year old Californian moves to Florida to play golf and dies 5 years later, while a 25 year old Floridian moves to California, gets married and has three kids. Equal trade!

For all these reasons and more, It just makes so much more sense to just use census numbers. But sadly, the census numbers don't show what the Tax Foundation wants. Stupid reality getting in the way of our worldview!

Posted by: LAW | Sep 20, 2010 9:41:01 AM



"All of the data on this site comes from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Statistics of Income division."

See link on my name.

Posted by: Hal Duston | Sep 20, 2010 7:46:11 AM


Go back to the top of the story and open the link to the Tax Foundation. Once there you can quickly see that the data came from the IRS so if the data is BS you'll have to blame them.

Posted by: Rick | Sep 20, 2010 3:49:29 AM

6 million "border jumpers" moved to California? Wrong.

California has about 2.6 illegal immigrants. Even if you assume all of them came since 1993 (wrong) and that they were all counted in the Census (not even close), there are still ~3.4M new tax paying citizens in California since 1993, which is more than any other state except Texas. That doesn't jive at all with the numbers you see here.

Bottom line is this guy's numbers seem to be total BS no matter how you spin it. He found a way to count population that supported his worldview instead of simply using commonly accepted Census numbers. It's bad science.

Posted by: LAW | Sep 20, 2010 2:32:58 AM

The same thing happens to big cities that tax, tax, tax and give lousy service. People move out and to the suburbs. If the suburbs change for the worse, then people move even further out and start new communities and business districts rather than commute.

The changing face of Birmingham suburbs

...A dynamic of migration fuels this explosive growth that is reshaping our metro suburbs. By 2008, a majority of members of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the nation's metro areas lived in the suburbs, according to a Brookings Institution report this year.

..."If you can afford to move out and give yourself a better opportunity, that's what you do,"... "If you have families looking for better schools, housing and job opportunities, this often leads them to the suburbs," ....

Posted by: Woody | Sep 19, 2010 8:46:55 PM

Strangely, all of the former Illinoians (like myself) I've met in South Florida tend to lean mroe Republican. I think that's one reason why Illinois has become more blue. All of the traditionally leaning democrats are remaining, and, possibly, theyre getting some migration from hardcore blue states like Michigan.

Posted by: jay | Sep 19, 2010 5:12:04 PM

Yep. Happened in Florida to. The New Yorkers fled the state to Florida and proceeded to vote in a bunch of lefties in South Florida. Part of the inspiration for one of my favorite bumper stickers - "I don't care how you did it up North".

Posted by: David | Sep 19, 2010 3:21:05 PM

As outlined by the Democratic playbook, the census takers did not inquire as to whether or not people were in the country legally, so illegals are inflating the populations of states like California and taking representation from legal citizens in other states.

Posted by: Woody | Sep 19, 2010 1:13:20 PM

Law, there's no contradiction in what you point out. If you allow 6 million border jumpers who aren't gonna bother to file taxes, but the census still counts them, you can still lose 700,000 filing taxpayers.

Posted by: dfenstrate | Sep 19, 2010 10:58:53 AM

FYI - these numbers are total BS. According to the US census bureau, California actually added about 6 million people in the time period Caron looks at. He claims they lost 723,098 tax returns. That seems completely unbelievable given the large net population increase. I would love to see some kind of actual source behind these numbers.

Posted by: LAW | Sep 19, 2010 10:01:55 AM

Repeating the democrats = tax increases lie again and again doesnt make it any more true.

Projection. It is the Democrats who lie, just as you have done so above.

It is the Democrats that want to let the Bush tax cuts expire (but don't want to reduce spending back to where it was back then).

Everything about Democrats is projection. Everything.

Posted by: GK | Sep 19, 2010 9:29:24 AM

A lot of leftists are totally convinced that Democrats are net payers, and Republicans are net liabilities to the tax base.

How they believe this, I do not know. But they truly think the Democrat voter base is more productive than the GOP voter base.

Posted by: GK | Sep 19, 2010 9:28:13 AM

What do Presidential election results have to do with migration between states? A better correlation is winter heating oil usage. But climate doesn't account for California, so let's look at state government. From 1999 through 2003, when Grey Davis was governor, net migration away from the state was only 55,320 returns. From 2004 to 2008, under Arnold Schwarzenegger's leadership, net migration away from California rose to 254,385.

Posted by: Bob | Sep 19, 2010 8:49:33 AM

FL, AZ, TX, NV, TN and WA are also state income-tax free. Perhaps, the people moving are red voters. Blue occupations; union, government, teaching, trial lawyer, etc. seem to involve less migration.

Posted by: JohnS | Sep 19, 2010 7:58:59 AM

"I wonder what the per capita figures are?"

Has it come to this, that we rely on bloggers to do our simple math? Perhaps one could go to Wikipedia, find the state populations of interest, and divide!

Posted by: tsj | Sep 19, 2010 7:54:48 AM

The problem is a lot of these people are liberals/Democrats who've fouled their own nest and move someplace else, taking their politics with them. Talk to some North Carolinians about how thrilled they are with the influx of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans or to Oregonians re Californians. They move in and start demanding more gov't services, bigger schools, etc. No-income-tax Florida is full of retired Northeastern cops, fireman and teachers who had no problem racking up obscene pension benefits on the job, but have absolutely no incentive to stick around and help pay for them once they are retired. (Criticism directed at the unsustainable public pension system, not individual cops, firemen or teachers, including those in my own family.)

Posted by: Oceanspray | Sep 19, 2010 7:53:32 AM

What is it about the phrase "obama gave everyone a tax cut" that you morons dont understand? Repeating the democrats = tax increases lie again and again doesnt make it any more true.

Posted by: bobthebuilider | Sep 19, 2010 7:47:00 AM

Another way to look at is that 8 of the states gaining population are right to work states, and 9 of the states losing population have forced union membership (again LA is the exception). Obviously a lot of cross-correlation with voting patterns though.

Posted by: David | Sep 19, 2010 7:36:44 AM

I am one of those statistics, left MA for NH in 2008. The current (and probably lame-duck) Democratic government in NH did catch many of us small businessmen with a redistributive so-called "LLC tax" (also applies to S corps and sole props, and any individual with 1099 not W-2 income), so I'm looking at FL if the new NH regime doesn't rectify things. Still, my annual tax burden dropped over $25k between income and sales taxes (and MA has since raised the sales tax 25%). Maybe $50k in a good year, which I'm not quite having yet. That's revenue MA won't get and will never get again, and I'm hardly the Lone Ranger. I introduce myself here as "a tax refugee from the People's Republic" (no one ever asks what socialist state I mean), and a large fraction of people respond by telling me what year it was when they themselves tunneled out.

Basically, MA is now in a vicious circle in which tax eaters (welfare recipients, overpaid state and muni workers [$66k-salary toll takers!], ultra wealthy insiders who enrich themselves with various rents, jobs dependent on gov largesse like UMass academics) control government and press it towards enlarging their own net worth, at the expense of a diminishing cadre of tax payers. It's not "going Galt," it's a normal and rational thing for any tax payer who can to exit. Particularly considering the unlimited greed of the federal tax moloch, which leaves less from a zero-sum total for the growing state tax fraction, the savings fraction, and the personal/family use fraction.

It's not like anything of equivalent value comes from paying these taxes. Sand down a rathole. The one exception that brings value back to the state is money spent on the academy, which redounds to its benefit with start-ups, high-tech, biotech and so forth. But the schools that produce most of those vital and necessary geniuses are private. The state university system is a sea of institutions that produce high-school graduates bearing misleading paperwork, with occasional islets of mediocrity towering high above that depressed level.

Posted by: Kevin R. C. O'Brien | Sep 19, 2010 7:24:27 AM

Don't conflate voting for Bush over Kerry in 2004 with McAmnesty's run in 2008. There were wildly different things in play.

And let's face it. No one in the GOP could have inspired the Tea Party as much as BHO has done.

Posted by: setnaffa | Sep 19, 2010 7:00:33 AM

I grew up in California when it was a red state. It was a great place to live. Then an influx from people all over the country, but particularly from back east turned into the blue state nightmare it's become.

I now live in Texas. Living here reminds me of the California I knew and loved years ago. When I see all these people coming here from blue states I want to institute card-check at the border. Are you conservative? Welcome. Are you liberal? Sorry. You need to go live in the mess you created. You are not welcome to bring that mess here.

Posted by: Texan | Sep 19, 2010 6:54:27 AM

"A lot of the migrants have a general sense that things are broken back home, but not why. So, they work hard to turn their new home into their old one, for good and ill."

Yep, Stacy, I left CA in 2008 for Charlotte, NC. There are so many NY, CA, MI, MD, etc., license plates now in the parking lots that I can only imagine that soon NC will look just like the Blue State utopias that these people fled.

Posted by: Earl E. Teetyme | Sep 19, 2010 6:28:56 AM

I wonder what the per-capita figures are.. 100k people moving to TX wouldn't have as much of an electoral impact as moving to, say, WY..

Posted by: Dr. Kenneth Noisewater | Sep 19, 2010 6:22:48 AM

Regarding the above 'bigger, or less red' question, I would say both. Voters on the left follow jobs like anyone else, but almost none changes his or her political views. Those of us in states that have job openings can only hope that most of the incoming were among the right of center already.

Posted by: Alicia | Sep 19, 2010 6:05:31 AM

The ones I hate are the morons who vote democrats in, watch them wreck the economy, flee to a red state to get a job- and then vote democratic. Idiots.

Posted by: Amos | Sep 19, 2010 6:03:44 AM

"Does this mean the Red States will become bigger . . . or less Red?"

Both, per the experience of western states accepting out-migration from California. A lot of the migrants have a general sense that things are broken back home, but not why. So, they work hard to turn their new home into their old one, for good and ill.

Posted by: Stacy | Sep 19, 2010 5:38:00 AM

I'm particularly curious to see how this compares to the shift in non-taxpayers. If the intra-census year population estimates are good enough you can calculate the total change in state population from 93-08, and then subtract the taxpayer change to determine the direction of flow of non-taxpayers. Once the 2010 numbers (tax and census) are out this will be very accurate, but over this range it should be pretty good as well. I don't know where to find accurate year-to-year state populations though.

Posted by: Lou | Sep 19, 2010 5:23:08 AM

Does this mean the Red States will become bigger . . . or less Red? That's the big question.

Posted by: mike livingston | Sep 18, 2010 7:08:18 PM