Friday, June 18, 2010

Mapping the Ins and Outs of Migration

Posted By on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 6:23 PM

Forbes magazine has posted a fascinating interactive map showing, county by county, where Americans moved to and where they moved from. One rather surprising fact: More people still seemed to be moving into Central Oregon than out of it – at least as of 2008.

The map indicates out-migration by lines in shades of red, with darker shades indicating more people moving out. In-migration is shown bylines in shades of gray to black; again, the darker the shade, the more people moving in.

I didn’t count all the lines, but Deschutes County appears to have a lot more gray or black ones than pink or red ones. Most of the in-migrants came from (surprise, surprise) the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas; the Portland area and the Willamette Valley also contributed quite a few.

People moving out of the county mostly headed north and east, to Washington, Idaho and Montana. We’re not talking about big numbers – only about 30 to 50 moved to most other counties. On the other hand, 365 people moved to Deschutes from California’s Orange County and San Diego County alone in 2008.

Crook and Jefferson Counties showed little in- or out-migration during the year, almost all of it involving moves within Oregon.

As I said earlier, the map is based on data for 2008, which was before the economy here had totally tanked. It would be fun to look at more recent patterns.

The map casts some doubt on the theory that higher tax rates cause higher-income people to flee a state en masse. The Economist (hardly a “socialist” rag) takes a look at the map and concludes that the picture is much more complicated.

Migration patterns between California (a notorious tax hell, according to conservatives) and Texas, which has no personal income tax, illustrate the point.

“If we look at movements between Santa Clara County and Harris County (the heart of Houston and one of the fastest growing large counties in the country) we see that in 2008 478 people moved from Santa Clara to Harris while just 331 moved in the opposite direction,” The Economist observes. “But the average income of those moving from Houston to Silicon Valley was $10,000 higher than that of those moving in the other direction. This dynamic plays out across a number of rapidly growing, low cost Sunbelt locations.”

The income difference was even more pronounced between migrants to and from Silicon Valley and Atlanta, GA, another relatively low-tax state. The average per capita income of those moving to Santa Clara County from Atlanta was $84,000, but the average income of those moving the other way was only $35,000.

“Clearly this complicates the image of the mobile rich fleeing to places with the lowest tax rates,” The Economist concludes.  “Which isn't to say that tax rates aren't a factor in migration decisions. It's simply to note that there are more things to take into account than tax rates.”


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