By John Hood
From July 2020 to July 2021, there was a net influx of 637,729 Americans to 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 exporting states: California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Louisiana.
The top five immigration 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 emigration states have Democratic governors and four of the five have Democratic legislatures. “That’s all you need to know!” Republicans proclaim. “It’s just a coincidence!” Democrats insist.
You’re probably thinking I’m going to say the truth is more complicated than both sides would admit. And you’re right – but it’s not. this much more complicated.
Partisan control of government is obviously not the only determinant of where Americans choose to live. In fact, for many individuals and families looking to move, whether a state has a Republican or Democratic legislature is not an explicit criteria at all. They take on new jobs, move closer to family or other desirable amenities, or opt for warmer climates as they plan or begin retirement.
Indeed, if you look at the list of places that saw a net outflow of Americans last year, that includes states like Ohio and North Dakota with GOP governors and legislatures. And some blue states such as Colorado, Delaware and Oregon have seen a net influx.
Now that I’ve done the requisite throat clearing, however, there’s simply no denying that when it comes to offshoring schemes, politics matters. These are not party labels. It’s about what they mean. Generally speaking, Republican-led states tax and regulate less than Democratic-led states. These policy choices, in turn, tend to accelerate population growth in Republican-led states by producing signals that would-be migrants can easily discern.
For example, if you are evaluating several job openings with roughly comparable salaries, you may very well go to where you can buy the most house for your money, which will generally be in places with low property taxes. and house prices are not high. artificially by regulatory burdens. Alternatively, if what you really want to do is start your own business rather than work for someone else, freer savings are usually the better bet.
Dozens of academic studies confirm these relationships. Places that rank higher in economic freedom tend to enjoy higher rates of job creation, business start-ups, and population growth. Take the example of a 2020 article in the Southern Economic Journal that used an index of local economic freedom to examine offshoring patterns. He found that for every 10% increase in a metropolitan area’s economic freedom score, immigration increased by 27%. In a new American Business Review study of state demographic trends, economist Richard Cebula found that levels of entrepreneurial activity and personal freedom are associated with higher immigration rates.
In the age of COVID, the differences in governance philosophy have become clearer. In early lockdowns, Democratic-led states closed faster and longer. Republican-led states were more likely to keep schools open. The Americans noticed it. While most wanted their governments to take the pandemic seriously, they also wanted their governments to be reasonable.
Here in North Carolina, a herd of progressive Chicken Littles have spent the past decade warning that the GOP-controlled legislature is ruining our economy and our reputation by not “investing” enough in government. Their left-leaning, fiscally conservative counterparts in Florida and Texas were saying the same thing at the same time.
We have by no means solved all our economic problems. When it comes to the willingness of individuals, families, and businesses to relocate to North Carolina and other market-friendly states, however, these Chicken-Little warnings proved to be totally wrong – and went totally unnoticed by the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have happily moved here in the meantime, including 89,000 in the last year alone.
Our sky never seemed to fall.
John Hood is a board member of the John Locke Foundation and author of the new novel Mountain folklore, a historical fantasy set during the American Revolution (MountainFolkBook.com).