Thursday, December 17, 2020

Some States Are Better Than Others

Someone on Twitter: "Tell me the best state without telling me Texas."

Several people answered that they don't know, but they did know that the worst state is Florida.

There are things to like and dislike about every state.  But perhaps the most objective and broadest measure of how good or appealing a place is, is based on the people who have voted with their feet, leaving places with little appeal or opportunity, to migrate to places which are more appealing and provide much opportunity.  By that measure, Florida is clearly the best state over the last decade – the only state with very strong positive international and domestic migration for 2010-2019, which is why it is top right (blue circle) in the scatter graph below. (DC is not far behind, and Texas is doing fairly well by both measures.)

The distance from the sloping red line is each state's total (international and domestic) migration.  The upper right states are the most popular, the lower left the least popular. (Click for higher resolution.)


Domestic migration is, necessarily, evenly balanced.  When you include state population (the size of the dots), the graph is evenly balanced on the vertical blue zero line.

The states with the worst domestic outmigration (negative migration) are: Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey.  In general, people have been leaving the Midwest and Northeast for the West and South.  The one Midwestern (here, red) state attracting significant numbers is North Dakota, mostly due to an oil boom.  Only two Northeastern states have seen even slightly positive migration: Maine and New Hampshire.

While the Northwest and Mountain West saw gains, Alaska and Hawaii saw substantial outmigration.  California's outmigration was smaller as a percentage of population, but the largest in the country in absolute terms.


For international migration (height above the blue horizontal line), the US regions are more evenly distributed. West Virginia has the weakest international migration; there are not a lot of West Virginia jobs attracting people from overseas.  Massachusetts has attracted a lot of foreign workers, even as domestic outmigration has been considerable.  Boston and its suburbs have been performing very well economically, but this has also made real estate there among the most expensive in the country, pricing a lot of people out.


For 2019-2020, components of population change won’t be available until February, 2021.  In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the raw percentage changes in population (map and link below) show that most of these trends continued.