If everybody’s leaving, why are most of the moving vans inbound?

The new year brings a seemingly never-ending flood of 50-state rankings. Some, assembled by pro-business interests, tend to rank Vermont near the bottom. Others, like Politico Magazine’s broad-based quality-of-life mashup, put Vermont near the top. Number 3, in the case of Politico.

Well, here comes United Van Lines with its own 50-state ranking, “which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns.” And contrary to the standard Republican talking point — nobody wants to live here because taxes — Vermont comes in near the top. Number 3, as a matter of fact.

The United ranking is based on one single criterion: where are the moving vans headed? And in Vermont last year, there were a lot more inbound than outbound. Here’s the map.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.04.39 AM

Okay, so how do we square this with our flat population and very real demographic crisis?

Two points.

1. For Vermont, this is a small data set: a total of 326 shipments. 124 were outbound, while 202 were inbound.

2. Young people pulling up stakes are less likely to need a professional mover. They’re more likely to self-move with a rental vehicle. So Vermont’s demographic shift might be obscured in United’s ranking.

If true, this has a flip side: those moving out are less prosperous than those moving in. They own more stuff, anyway. And they aren’t deterred by our “ruinous” taxation. On the other other hand, young people are at the beginning of their earning (and stuff-accumulationg) years, and you don’t want to lose them.

Now, two points in our favor beyond the bare numbers.

1. Vermont is the only state north of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi to have more moving vans coming in than going out. That’s quite an accomplishment. Especially when you look at the sea of yellow (net out-migration) in our quadrant of the continental U.S.

2. Vermont has outpaced the region for quite a few years now. While the Northeast has been perennially dominated by out-migration in the United ranking, Vermont has been no worse than dead even.

Again, that’s not net population growth; it’s only those who hire professional movers.

But still, this is at odds with the reputation of Vermont as a lousy place to live. We’re doing okay, at least in this one ranking. And we consistently do much better than our neighbors. So we must be doing something right.

I’ll close with one overall observation. It’s interesting that there’s no consistent Red/Blue split in the United ranking. Red states like Florida, the Carolinas and Idaho do well; but so do blue states Vermont, Oregon, and Washington, plus the stubbornly purple Nevada. Some blue states do poorly, like New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; but so do some red states, like Indiana, Mississippi, and Kansas. (Sorry, Governor Brownback.)

The only conclusion I can draw from that is, a state’s political coloration isn’t the largest factor in most moving decisions. Its taxation and regulatory policies aren’t either, notwithstanding Republican claims to the contrary.

11 thoughts on “If everybody’s leaving, why are most of the moving vans inbound?

  1. Brooke Paige

    When Donna and I moved here thirty years ago, we rented the biggest U-Haul truck they had, packed it to the roof and headed north – praying the weigh stations were closed !

    I saw this story several weeks ago and drew many of the same conclusions as you did, with one exception. Just because United Van Lines has reported “in bound” shipments, it does not report the demographics of the clients. With the net difference of a mere 75 and the fact that only the well off (and those whose work pays for their job relocations) pay for moving their stuff – how many of these “in bound” clients are the wealthy who are establishing “second homes” here with the specific intend of maintaining their “tax residence” in a low taxation state ?

  2. R Roper

    John, nobody is saying Vermont is a lousy place to live. It is a great place to live. That’s why we live here. The problem is it is a freaking expensive place to live, especially if you are young and trying to start a family, buy a home, build a business or a career, save for college, etc. The problem is our policies are turning Vermont into a playground/retirement community for the already wealthy and, at the same time because of our extraordinarily lavish welfare state, a destination for a permanent underclass. The middle class is left out in (or in our case “out of”, I suppose) the cold. Hence our status as the state with the fastest growing gap between rich and poor. Vermont is becoming a luxury item, a status symbol. Not a lot of people own a Mercedes. That’s not because they are not great cars, it is because they are really expensive cars only a few wealthy people can afford. Is this wealthy/welfare dynamic really what we want for Vermont? It’s what our progressive policies are giving us.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      I’m not saying we don’t have our problems, and cost of living is certainly one of them. My main point, really, is that this is a complicated situation and in many ways we are doing fairly well, especially compared to our region.

    2. Faith King

      “Lavish welfare state?” “Destination for the permanent under class?” What nonsense. After a long career in street-level social and human services in VT I can tell you, Rob, that almost all (99%) of the poor people I’ve met are born and bred right here. They are white, multi-generation Vermonters. Occasionally they have gone away – in search of WORK, not benefits – but came back because of family connections. I have not met a single person who came here from another state for food stamps, or our long waiting list for affordable housing, or our meager/insufficient fuel assistance program that doesn’t make a dent in fuel bills, or our almost-total lack of affordable housing, or our pitifully-low assistance with college expenses, or our wait-listed home insulation program, or our time-sensitive Reach Up benefits that shove single-parents into the ‘convenient-store workforce’ without adequate daycare or after-school care……

    3. Dave Katz

      Why, I have a Mercedes. A 300E, W124 platform, in fact. Paid $700 for it years ago, and drive it all the time. Pass everything on the highway with this Panzer, including rich people who live in Vermont. They pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than me, I assure you, which is the opposite of progressive by definition. One thing I’ve never seen is a line of Okie jalopies at any of the state’s borders, unless they’re headed to New Hampshire for cheap ciggies. You Republicans sure can throw your poop at the crowd outside the cage bars, but the returns are in and they’re dismal–you guys can’t govern a state or a nation to save your asses. Kansas? Michigan? Louisiana? George W. Bush? You probably vaguely remember him, though, like the Sneetches of Dr. Seuss fame, you’ve scrambled to cleanse yourself of that particular taint…Working people–never mind the poor!– are losing ground every day in all those places, and in every other state governed by your party of quislings. The rich owner class are definitely making out like bandits on every front. So how about you STFU with the welfare queens Cadillac horseshit, eh, lackey?

  3. Peter K.

    This fact kind of puts a damper on Phil Scott’s chicken little routine, but I’m sure his handlers will find a way to steer him (get it, a race can analogy! aren’t I clever?) around the facts. He can always fall back on the youth fleeing Vermont, but mainly that’s because, unlike him, a lot of them probably want to get out of here for a few years to see the world and hopefully become more well rounded in the process. Just because you stayed here Philly doesn’t mean that’s the answer for everyone. And you kind of fell into a business, right?

  4. Neil Gerdes

    This reminds me of the Liberty poll of 1936. People who hire movers tend to be more well off. Poorer folk would rent a Uhaul or strap it on the roof of the car.

  5. Walter Carpenter

    “The problem is our policies are turning Vermont into a playground/retirement community for the already wealthy and, at the same time because of our extraordinarily lavish welfare state, a destination for a permanent underclass.”


  6. Walter Carpenter

    “Just because you stayed here Philly doesn’t mean that’s the answer for everyone. And you kind of fell into a business, right?”

    Keep reminding us of that:)


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