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