The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran recently wrote an op-ed entitled “Are Folks Leaving Jersey? Nah!” Moran dismisses the idea that New Jersey has an outmigration problem as “fantasy.” But it’s not fantasy, it’s real, and it’s a shame that the editor of New Jersey’s leading newspaper overlooks it.
Moran cites data but not the right data. For example, Moran states that from 2010-2020 New Jersey’s population grew from 8.8 million to 9.3 million. But this leaves out two very important issues:
- New Jersey is not gaining population as fast as other states, which is why New Jersey has seen its congressional seats decline from 15 to 12.
- More importantly, it ignores interstate migration patterns, where New Jersey is losing great amounts of people and wealth.
There’s a reason why New Jersey ranks as the worst state in mover surveys such as United Van Lines, and Hire A Helper: New Jersey has one of the worst interstate outmigrations in the nation. According to Census Bureau data, New Jersey lost a net -491,000 people to other states from 2010-2019, the 4th worst in the nation. So New Jersey is gaining population only because of international immigration.
The problem with this interstate outmigration is that New Jersey is also losing large amounts of wealth: the incomes of New Jersey’s in-migrants were only 68% of out-migrants. As an example, from 2010 to 2019, the average in-migrant from Florida had an income of $57,000 a year; the average out-migrant to Florida was twice as large at $114,000.
The aggregate numbers are staggering. According to IRS data, from 2010-2019, a net total of 202,356 New Jersey taxpayers left, taking $24.6 billion with them. But this greatly understates the actual amount of wealth leaving because the IRS data only measures the income lost in the single year when the taxpayer left New Jersey for another state. But in the real world, the annual income that leaves New Jersey leaves for more than one year, and for the many retirees leaving New Jersey, it leaves for the rest of the retiree’s retirement. So the real outflow of wealth is many times larger.
Here again, Moran cites the wrong data, arguing that the number of millionaires in New Jersey has increased. But the real question is whether wealth is leaving New Jersey, and the data clearly shows that it is. So regardless of whether there are more millionaires, wealth is leaving New Jersey by the moving-van load.
More ominously, New Jersey is losing about 20,000 college graduates per year to other states. This is New Jersey’s future walking out the door.
A state that is losing billions in wealth and thousands of college graduates every year has an outmigration problem. New Jersey needs opinion leaders like Tom Moran to recognize this.