ROI’s Tom Bergeron interviewed New Jersey Policy Perspective president Brandon McKoy about the most recent United Van Lines moving survey, which ranked NJ as the state with the highest percentage of its movers leaving the state – for the third straight year.
McKoy dismisses the UVL survey as a “joke” and redirects the focus from the survey’s conclusions to his own: “I think everyone should keep in mind that, A) This is not a uniquely New Jersey problem specifically, so, stop acting like it is,” he said. “And, B) Have a little bit more appreciation for our immigrant neighbors.”
Sunlight wants to refute McKoy’s preferred narrative. First, he is correct that NJ is not alone and Sunlight is curious as to why McKoy suggests that anyone is saying so. On the contrary: take a look at the bottom five states in the UVL survey: NJ, NY, IL, CT and CA. They are all states that have powerful government unions who dominate their political systems. These super-charged special interests are funded by taxpayer dollars and use those tax dollars to lobby for high taxes. Here are the bottom four states for the tax climate for businesses: NJ, CA, NY, CT (according to the Tax Foundation). Notice the similarity? NJ is indeed not alone but that fact only underscores why people are leaving NJ as well as these other states.
Second, the issue is not whether NJ draws immigrants. It is that the true test of a state’s overall attractiveness is whether it is more or less attractive than other states to Americans. This has implications for economic growth, jobs, overall wealth and quality of life because NJ competes with other states. Everyone knows that millions of immigrants choose to come to the USA over other countries – it’s been that way for hundreds of years. NJ benefits from that, thank goodness. Otherwise NJ would be seeing outright population declines. God bless NJ’s immigrants, but focusing on them avoids the real issue raised by UVL: the relative unattractiveness of NJ as a state compared to other states.
Bergeron is right that those who use UVL tend to be wealthier, but that doesn’t detract from the study, it is one of the main points of the study: significantly more Americans who leave NJ are wealthier than those coming in (49.24% of leavers have incomes over $150,000). This is not a sign of health for NJ. Less wealth means less tax revenues, less capital for investment and a poorer economy.
But, contra McKoy, the UVL study is not a “joke.” UVL is the largest moving company in the US and its study provides hard data that is backed up by Census, IRS and other data, which show NJ as a state with one of the worst domestic outmigrations of any state. (See Sunlight’s “Beware the Downward Spiral‘ for a detailed analysis of this problem). It’s so much easier for McKoy to dismiss the UVL study than to deal with the harsh reality that confronts NJ.
Finally, McKoy makes a highly misleading point: “People in Jersey will talk about outmigration being an issue in New Jersey as though it’s something new — it’s not. We’ve been an outmigration state going back 50-plus years.” Here is the hard data provided by NJ Eduction Aid:
- 1960s, NJ grew at 136% of the natl avg.
- 1970s NJ grew at 24% of the natl avg.
- 1980s NJ grew at 51% of the natl avg.
- 1990s NJ grew at 67% of the natl avg.
- 2000s NJ grew at 46% of the natl avg.
- 2010s NJ grew at 16% of the natl avg.
Tellingly, NJ congressional seats have dropped from 15 in 1970 to 12. Manifestly, NJ population growth has not kept up with the rest of the nation.
McKoy is simply wrong to dismiss the UVL study. NJ has a serious outmigration problem. It is a fact that people, businesses, jobs, wealth and even millennials are leaving NJ. McKoy wants to pretend otherwise, but NJ citizens need to know the facts so that we can try to do something about these negative trends. The future of the state is at stake.