Pandemic-related population changes reflected in census data | Editorials
The pandemic has changed America in many ways, and one of the major shifts is the migration from states that have locked down their economies and schools the most to those that have kept them wide open.
This is the news underreported in last week’s Census Bureau state population and internal migration estimates from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. The data used for this year’s Congressional redistribution was based about where people claimed to live on April 1, 2020. But what a difference 15 months of lockdowns achieved.
Illinois’ population declined further by 141,039 between spring 2020 and last summer, with 151,512 netizens leaving the state for other states. California lost 300,387 people amid a net emigration of 429,283 residents. The biggest loser was New York, whose population fell by 365,336 due to an exodus of 406,257 residents.
By contrast, Texas added 382,436 new residents, including 211,289 from other states. Florida gained 242,941 residents as 263,958 people from other states poured in. Florida’s population growth would have been greater if not for the high number of COVID deaths, which is the result of its older population. Ditto for Arizona whose population increased by 124,814 inhabitants.
Migration from high-tax states to low-tax states—particularly those in the Sun Belt—has been going on for more than a decade. But the trend accelerated during the pandemic, as Democratic states tended to impose the strictest closings and school closures while Republican-ruled states allowed most businesses and schools to remain open after. spring 2020.
Net emigration from California jumped 75% between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021 compared to the same period from 2018 to 2019. Emigration from New York doubled. On the other hand, the influx from Texas increased by 40% and that from Florida by more than half. The flight from Illinois also accelerated.
Connecticut, for the first time since 2011, saw a net increase in migration from other states. This is likely due to the fact that many New York office workers are moving as Manhattan employers shift to remote work. But Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont also pushed to keep schools open last winter, and he imposed fewer pandemic restrictions than former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Rational Ground COVID data tracking team calculated that the 25 states with the most in-person learning during the 2020-21 school year gained 822,064 people on the net from other states. It is impossible to precisely quantify the causal impact of school closures and lockdowns on population migration. But the correlation is clear from the data.
There is also the impact of the tax increase. Although Washington State (which has no income tax) before the pandemic attracted people from other states, it saw a small net outflow last year. Governor Jay Inslee’s severe lockdowns and school closures are likely culprits. But the state isn’t helping by imposing a 7% tax on capital gains over $250,000 that goes into effect Jan. 1. Remote work has made high earners more mobile, and raising their taxes is fiscally self-defeating.
Mr. Cuomo is the king of self-destruction. In the spring, he signed legislation raising personal income taxes for individuals earning more than $1 million even as tax revenues rose. The highest national and local combined rate rose from 12.7% to 14.8% on revenue over $25 million. Good luck to Eric Adams, the elected mayor of New York, who is forced to beg high earners to come back from Florida.
Many GOP-led states, including Tennessee, Idaho and Arkansas, cut taxes during the pandemic. More than a dozen, like Georgia, Missouri and West Virginia, have also expanded school choice, as have a few Democrat-ruled like Kansas and Pennsylvania.
The pandemic – hopefully – is a once-in-a-lifetime event. This has caused enormous social and economic upheavals, as well as population displacements which will not be repeated every year. Yet it has also reinforced the distinction between Republican lawmakers who strive to protect individual liberty, even in times of crisis, and Democrats who impose more government control.
Differences in politics and political values won’t fade with the virus, and it’s clear from the census data which side wins the contest of talent and taxpayers.