We seem to be moving less:

number of movers and mover rate

Let’s see where and why.

Interstate Migration

Where?

U-Haul publishes an annual report of its top destinations. Comparing the net gain of the one-way trucks that enter to those that leave, they rank the 50 continental U.S. states.

Based on their U-Haul rentals, Tennessee did a leap to the top from the #12 spot last year. Meanwhile Texas and Florida have been preferred destinations for years but not California and Illinois:

interstate migration

The 2020 interstate migration data from United Van Lines is slightly different from what U-Haul tells us. Tennessee made it to the top 10 on the Moving In list for the first time last year. Unlike U-Haul, though, Tennessee was #7. Meanwhile, everyone seems to be leaving my home state, NJ:

interstate migration

Why?

When we ask why people migrate, the answer from the Census Bureau is primarily housing, and then family, and jobs:

moving reasons

There is a group, though, that says a big reason for leaving a state is taxes. They claim that high earners respond with their feet when government asks for more. So, do compare this 2021 “Tax Climate Index” from the Tax Foundation. They tell us that states with low rates, or no income tax, sales tax, or corporate income tax had the best “climate.”

With the best tax climate, Wyoming was #1:

  • Wyoming
  • South Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Indiana
  • North Carolina

At #50, New Jersey is the worst:

  • Alabama
  • Louisiana
  • Vermont
  • Maryland
  • Arkansas
  • Minnesota
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • California
  • New Jersey

Our Bottom Line: A National Market

As economists we can say that no matter why you move, it is crucial that you can move.

Looking back to the 19th century, we had a transportation infrastructure of roads, canals and then railroads that facilitated the interstate migration of people and goods. With midwestern farming, southern cotton, and northeastern manufacturing, each of us could do what we did best and then trade. Because each section of the country was producing what it was most suited to, we enjoyed the benefits of comparative advantage.

Now again we continue to enjoy the positive externalities of state-to-state migration. Being able to move freely across the vast expanse of the U.S. (in our U-Haul or United Van Lines truck) is an economic plus.

My sources and more: These U-Haul  and United Van Lines interstate migration facts provide some insight as does The Tax Foundation. Meanwhile, the Bureau of the Census is always a handy resource.

Please note that some sentences from today were in a previous econlife post.


Ideal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.