Soundings

Joel Kotkin
They’re Outta Here
Autumn 1996

In its recent annual report on “magnet" states, Allied Van Lines gave New York a distinction that it can do without: the most repellent state in the nation. Two-thirds of the Empire State's relocations were outbound, to places like Florida, California, Texas, and North Carolina (the nation's most attractive locale, according to the moving company). Allied's report confirms the disturbing news from the most recent U.S. Census numbers: New York, virtually alone among the states, is losing population.

More ominous still is the fact that a great many of these fleeing New Yorkers, especially those from the metropolitan region, are young and relatively affluent. As demographer William Frey of the University of Michigan puts it, New York is losing the people "who hold together the society and the economy." In a recent study, he found that younger baby boomers—people now in their thirties, just starting to establish careers and families—are considerably more likely to make their fortunes elsewhere.

Only a far stronger job market can reverse this exodus, according to David Hensley, chief regional economist for Salomon Brothers. But the news on this front is every bit as bad. Over the past year ending in April, New York City ranked 85th in job growth among the nation's 100 largest regions, and New York State fared even worse, coming in a dismal 48th among the states.

The lesson for New York is clear: the state's young, ambitious middle class will stay put—and its counterparts elsewhere will consider relocating—only if presented with genuine economic opportunity. Governor Pataki and Mayor Giuliani can learn a great deal in this regard from the low taxes and light regulation of states in the South and Southwest. They may even want to visit—before the moving vans, filled with some of their most valued constituents, beat them there.
 

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