Vermont faces a demographic challenge. Our population is stagnant and getting older. We have fewer school-age kids, which drives up the per-pupil cost. We have fewer young adults to invigorate the workforce and pay forward the costs of retirement and health care for older Vermonters.
That is true. But there’s a popular myth about why that’s true. Take it away, Ethan Allen Institute’s Rob Roper:
The fact of the matter is that Vermont’s progressive tax, regulatory, healthcare, land use, and energy policies are driving up the cost of living, and driving our young, educated workforce out of the state. Who wants to work or start a business or put down roots in a state that punishes success and whose guiding governing principle is to redistribute what you earn to someone else?
The assumption beneath the thickets of dogma: young people are fleeing Vermont. And that’s not true.
Here’s the truth. Young adults are highly mobile. Many of them do leave Vermont. However, an almost equal number move in. (More on this in a moment.)
So why do we have so many fewer people aged, say, zero to 35?
Because, for a long time now, Vermont has had very low birthrates. The average female Vermonter has about 1.5 children during her lifetime. Replacement level is 2.1. This has been true long enough that we are losing ground in the younger demographics.
That’s it. Not regulation or taxes or education costs or business climate or cost of living or Peter Shumlin’s nose. Simple and straightforward: not enough babies.
And now let’s see some actual figures, as opposed to conservative wishful thinking, on whether people are actually fleeing Vermont.